Cable Show 2010: Cox Embraces Android

More coverage of Cable Show 2010 from MCN and B&C.

Los Angeles -- Who needs the iPhone?

Cox Communications will be offering mobile devices based on Google's Android application platform when it launches its first 3G wireless voice and data service, executive vice president and product officer Dallas Clement said on a panel here at Cable Show 2010 Thursday.

About a year ago, Clement said, "you might have felt worried about not having access to the iPhone," given AT&T's current exclusive distribution agreement with Apple for the popular smartphone. "Now, with Android, you have a compelling alternative," he said. "So we feel pretty good about that."

Verizon Wireless last year debuted the highest-profile Android-based phone, the Motorola Droid, and AT&T, Sprint Nextel and other carriers also offer phones based on the operating system. According to Google, developers have created more than 30,000 apps for the Android platform.

Cox is still testing its wireless service, provided through Sprint's network, with employees and other friendlies in the three initial markets: Hampton Roads, Va.; Omaha, Neb.; and Orange County, Calif.

Clement said Cox will offer a choice of seven handsets, including Android-based phones and the Samsung Finesses, a touchscreen device with a 2.0-megapixel camera that is currently offered by MetroPCS. The MSO has not released pricing or other service details yet, but Clement said pricing will be "attractive."

As far as video on the mobile handsets, that capability is "not front-of-mind," Clement said. "Front-of-mind is, can I call my mom? If something goes wrong, can I support that?"

On the other hand, once Cox launches a TV Everywhere capability online with My Primetime Online -- an Internet version of its video-on-demand service that offers popular TV shows shortly after they air -- the operator wants to offer the ability to "side-load" the content into the mobile phones. "We'll have a way to do that via an app in Google's Android Market," Clement said.

Cox is gearing up for the launch of its new Trio interactive program guide, which features three-pane navigation and integrated search. For the wireless service, key design elements of the Trio IPG will be carried over on three of the seven devices, Clement said, albeit with navigation features optimized for the phone form factor.

Of course, Cox has offered a wireless service before, through the Pivot joint venture among Sprint, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, an effort that was ultimately abandoned in 2008 about a year after the brand was launched.  Clement said Cox learned a lot from Pivot, the main lesson being how to deliver a standardized offering across multiple markets in a competitive segment.

The panel, "TV Unplugged: Content Delivery, Multi-Platforms and DOCSIS 3.0," was sponsored by BigBand Networks and moderated by former Communications Technology editor Jonathan Tombes.

Other topics included TV Everywhere models and technologies, advanced content search and discovery approaches, video-on-demand, digital rights management and 3D television.

HBO chief technology officer Bob Zitter delivered the biggest laugh line of the morning on the topic of 3DTV, quipping: "I was thinking of filing a patent for bifocal 3D glasses." After the laughter subsided, Zitter added, "Now that I disclosed it, I can't."