Moxi's First Customer: EchoStar

Moxi Digital Inc. didn't take long to land its first client: satellite operator and company investor EchoStar Communications Corp.

The deal, to be announced at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, calls for Moxi to supply its software and hardware media gateway design to the direct-broadcast satellite provider.

Moxi had just emerged from two years of stealth development under the Reardon Steel Technologies Inc. moniker with a middleware and digital box design promising all-in-one video, audio and data access, including DVD capability, personal video recording, CD audio and Internet features.

The deal takes on greater significance in light of EchoStar's proposed merger with archrival DirecTV Inc., Moxi CEO Steve Perlman said. Once done, the deal would give Moxi an opening to almost 16 million satellite customers.

EchoStar also snagged a $1.5 billion investment from French entertainment giant Vivendi Universal S.A. that included a plan to add Canal Plus U.S. Technologies middleware to advanced EchoStar digital boxes with personal video recording functions. But that's a non-exclusive deal, Perlman noted.

The Canal Plus hardware-dependent middleware won't threaten to replace Moxi software because it won't likely work on Moxi's less-sophisticated boxes, he said.

"I think that we will coexist," Perlman said. "By the way, Vivendi as a partner for doing interactive and music, and all of that kind of stuff is huge for a system like ours, because we will have the content to deliver into it.

Plans are to start trials with EchoStar by the middle of this year. After that, the DBS provider will decide when and how to deploy the Moxi system.