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Arris Presents Initial Plans After Releasing Motorola’s Caged Birds

by David Mercer | 6月 20, 2013

After Google’s announced acquisition of Motorola in 2011 many people speculated that Motorola’s home and set-top box division would be used to boost Google’s TV strategy. But Strategy Analytics was never convinced that Google would show serious interest in the group, and we correctly predicted: “Far more likely that Motoroogle will … ultimately spin off and sell the division”. The spinoff was completed in April 2013 when the Motorola Home business was acquired by Arris Group, Inc. As Arris’s VP and General Manager EMEA, Steve McCaffery, confirmed, the Google ownership had caused serious problems for Motorola: as an example, executives at Telefonica were asking him to demonstrate that Google’s ownership did not make Motorola a competitor rather than a partner. It was also confirmed in recent analyst calls that Motorola customers had been delaying placing orders until future ownership issues were clarified.

This week we were invited to the Video Leadership Forum in Berlin, an event which Motorola had been running for the past six years and which the new Arris looks likely to continue. The executive team spent several hours with us laying out their plans for the company.

The first point to note is that the Motorola brand will not survive beyond another year, when Arris’s rights to the name will expire. While recent events have seen both companies exhibiting separately, at IBC in September we will witness the first exhibition by the combined firm. We’ll refer to the company now simply as Arris.

Arris’s business in Europe is now split 65% with the telco industry and 35% with cable. The company will be structured into two groups: Networks/Cloud and CPE (Customer Premises Equipment). It is still finalising a revised product roadmap and approach to areas of overlap between the two businesses, which include fiber nodes, ad insertion, assurance, encoder/decoder/transcoder, modems and gateways. But the company will prioritise three key business drivers:

-          End to end multiscreen

-          Broadband evolution

-          Headend evolution

While Arris will maintain a strong presence in the set-top box market, it is also focused on managing an expected market transition towards home gateways, and is now seeing increasing demand for headed gateways in developed markets. On the encoding side, Arris also noted that it is seeing growing interest in UltraHD from content providers, while recognising that the transition to 4K will be a long one.

Arris’s approach to cloud is a hybrid of managed networks supported by cloud-based services and functionality where appropriate. The cloud is seen as relevant to applications like overlay, service logic, UI, storage and metadata. Indeed one of the biggest trends Arris is seeing in 2013 is a move towards network DVR. It notes that cable operators tend to adopt a “follow the leader” strategy: as soon as one deploys a new technology others tend to follow very quickly.

One of the cornerstones of Arris’s Medios+ architecture is the Dreamgallery software, acquired when Motorola bought the Swedish IPTV software provider Dreampark in 2011. Dreampark seemed to have placed a good bet when it anticipated the move towards open standards such as HTML5 and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) in TV middleware, and Arris’s platform is still demonstrating the benefits, including flexible multi-device support, fast development time and attractive on-screen graphics and animations. Arris claims that around half of its middleware customers take the off-the-shelf option and the other half choose to develop their own customer UI using the Dreamgallery SDK, largely depending on the resources which the customer is able to bring to the project. In terms of content recommendation, Arris is currently partnering with four providers: ThinkAnalytics, DigitalSmiths, Attivio and Jinni.

During the Google tenure, Pace had also looked at the Motorola business but decided the price was not justified. Only time will tell whether Arris got it right, but pricing judgments are dependent to a large degree on future business expectations, and those inevitably hinge on the degree to which the acquired firm dovetails with its parent, and how the new strategy meets future customer needs.

I look forward to getting a further update on the new Arris at IBC when the converged roadmap should become clearer. What I can say at this stage is that the new team seemed like a flock of birds released from Google’s cage after a year and a half of captivity. A positive vibe can only be a good foundation on which to build the $5bn company it aspires to become.

David Mercer

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