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Behind Motorola’s Multiscreen Agenda

At Motorola Mobility’s annual customer conference in San Diego with cable operators, telcos and programmers this month, the hot-button topic was Google’s proposed $12.5 billion takeover of the company. Motorola Mobility chief technology officer Geoff Roman spoke last week with Multichannel News technology editor Todd Spangler to recap the event.

MCN: What questions and concerns did you hear from customers about the Google deal?

Geoff Roman: Everybody’s asking, ‘what does that mean,’ in terms of how we’ll be structured within Google. We’re in the regulatory approval process in a handful of jurisdictions around the world. There are restrictions on what we can do with Google on an interim basis.

MCN: So, nobody knows what Google is going to do.

GR: We do know Google is valuing the assets they are in the process of acquiring. The [intellectual property] story has been played through; that’s important to them. They view us as part of a broader position of the Android operating system. Their intention is to keep [Motorola Mobility] in a loose form of integration. They’re certainly interested in the Home business, although that’s not a place they’ve played historically.

MCN: What did you present at the conference?

GR: Where we were really focusing was the bridge between what was heretofore the mobile world and what was called the home world. A significant number of people are watching TV with a mobile device … We’re also focused on the delivery of a companion experience, where you use your mobile device as a second screen or tablet when you’re watching a program to get program-related information.

One technology we talked about that Motorola is helping to develop is HEVC [High Efficiency Video Coding] — that will drive down bit rates to half of what we get with MPEG-4 AVC [Advanced Video Coding], which as you know is half of MPEG-2. With HEVC you can get quality HD video into the couplemegabit range. HEVC standards should be complete sometime early next year, with products arriving in late 2013.

MCN: Are there cable applications for HEVC?

GR: I think there’s an important cross-platform play there, but when you think about wireless spectrum being a precious resource, I think mobile probably hits the wall first. And smartphone replacement cycles perhaps allow a quick introduction for HEVC.

MCN: What other topics were front and center?

GR: Besides multiscreen video, it’s moving things back into the cloud — things like network DVR [digital video recorder] and HTML5-based user interfaces, so instead of generating your guide out of the set-top, it does it in the network. There’s also convergence to [Internet protocol] in the midterm inside the home and, longer-term, IP delivery for more cloud-based content.

MCN: Is interest picking up in network DVR?

GR: We’re hearing a lot of renewed interest. We’re working with a lot of our customers on [network DVR] projects. The interest is there because it’s a better economic model. If a customer needs five times the storage, you can do that in the network instead of having to roll out a new device. You also get metrics and analytics on what they’re watching, and you can recommend other content to them.

People are also looking at energy consumption of devices in the home. With network DVR, you get some overall energy efficiency by putting that into the network. It depends a lot on how the operator uses the box, but [power savings] could be substantial.