Seven leading consumer electronics and technology companies today announced the formation of a new corporation in Japan, e-BOX, that will enable cable television system operators to deliver enhanced video on demand and interactive TV services to subscribers. Based in Tokyo, the joint venture includes five publicly traded companies: Pioneer Corporation (NYSE:PIO), Sharp Corporation (6753.JP), National Semiconductor Corporation (NYSE:NSM), Sigma Designs (NASDAQ:SIGM), and CMC Magnetics (2323.TW); and two privately held companies, iVAST, Inc. and Modern VideoFilm Inc.
Comcast Cable Communications, Inc., the third largest cable company in the U.S., is advising the joint venture partners on the technical requirements of the system and intends to conduct field trials of the new services early next year. Targeting North American and Asia-Pacific cable operators, the joint venture partners will deliver a complete infrastructure that includes head-end equipment, system software, content-protection systems and digital set-top boxes to provide scheduled and on-demand MPEG-4-encoded content and interactive services.
"Our joint venture is a consortium of companies that have leading-edge products and services targeted towards the future of television entertainment," said Dr. Masao Sugimoto, executive corporate engineering adviser of Pioneer Corporation. "By combining these capabilities, we have the ability to provide the industry with the technology and content it needs to bring fresh and exciting entertainment to subscribers."
The joint venture has developed a new digital cable solution, based on MPEG-4 technology, that enables exciting new services for consumers. These new services include video-on-demand with the look and feel of interactive DVD, e-commerce, bandwidth-efficient delivery of high definition television, and high-capacity personal video recording (PVR). The consortium's technology also provides stand-alone benefits for cable operators seeking an economical transition to next-generation entertainment services. Most importantly, cable companies will not have to replace their existing digital cable infrastructure to take advantage of the compression efficiency, content protection and other enhanced capabilities of the consortium's new MPEG-4 system architecture.
"Comcast is continuously investigating new technologies that will enhance its service offering to customers," said Brad Dusto, chief technology officer of Comcast Cable. "The consortium's approach of providing an end-to-end solution promises to provide us with a complete package to deliver new and exciting video services. We are looking forward to working with the consortium to help define and test the new system."
Each member of the joint venture will provide products and services reflecting their area of expertise. Pioneer and Sharp will contribute their knowledge of cable infrastructures, head-end equipment and digital set-top boxes to support the new system. National Semiconductor will provide silicon processors for the advanced set-top boxes based on its Geode™ technology. Sigma Designs will provide MPEG-4 decoder and video processing technologies for the advanced set-top boxes. CMC Magnetics will provide manufacturing expertise for the design and development of head-end equipment and set-top boxes. iVAST will provide the encoding, authoring, distribution, playback and system software for MPEG-4 based movie and video entertainment content with embedded interactive features. Modern VideoFilm will provide post-production services and MPEG-4 compression and authoring. In addition, the company will provide the hub for the various "Movie on Demand" and other MPEG-4 encoded entertainment content that will be offered by the new platform. Comcast will provide technical support to define the architectural requirements and conduct field trials on the initial production systems early next year.
In addition to providing a complete system, the joint venture partners are consulting with several content providers, including some Hollywood studios and KCTS/Seattle Public Television. Members of the joint venture will provide additional information about these and other initiatives at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association conference, May 5-8, 2002, in New Orleans.
Sharp Corporation is a worldwide developer of innovative products and core technologies that play a key role in shaping the future of electronics. As a leader in liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and digital technologies, Sharp offers one of the broadest and most advanced lines of consumer electronics, information products and electronic components, while also creating new network businesses. Sharp Corporation currently employs about 58,400 people in the world and recorded consolidated annual sales of over 2,012.8 billion yen for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2001. For more information, please visit Sharp's Web site at http://sharp-world.com/index.html
About National Semiconductor
National Semiconductor is the premier analog company driving the information age. Combining real-world analog and state-of-the-art digital technology, the company is focused on the fast growing markets for wireless handsets; displays; information appliances, including set top boxes; and information infrastructure. With headquarters in Santa Clara, California, National reported sales of $2.1 billion for its last fiscal year and has about 9,800 employees worldwide. Additional company and product information is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.national.com/.
About Sigma Designs
Sigma Designs specializes in silicon-based MPEG decoding for streaming video, progressive DVD playback and advanced digital set-top boxes. The company's award-winning REALmagic® Video Streaming Technology is used in both commercial and consumer applications providing highly integrated solutions for high-quality decoding of MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4. Headquartered in Milpitas, California, the company also has sales offices in China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. For more information, please visit the company's web site at http://www.sigmadesigns.com/
About CMC Magnetics
Founded in 1978, CMC Magnetics is one of the largest manufacturers of CD-R discs in the world and a leading manufacturer in the media storage industry. From Floppy Diskette, CD-R, CD-RW, CD Jewel Box™, CD-ROM/VCD and DVD series to CIA product(tm), CMC products offer the ultimate in performance and compatibility. In approaching the global market, CMC has 14 facilities worldwide to support production demand. Currently CMC has 8 domestic factories in Taiwan with extended production network in HK, Mexico, UK, Ireland and the USA to ensure prompt and responsive local services. From 1995 to 2001, CMC annual revenue increased 7 times to 532 million US dollars and net profit grew more than 15 times to 95 million US dollars. More detail company and products information is available on the World Wide Web at http://cmc.taiwanet.com/
iVAST is the world leader in end-to-end MPEG-4 solutions. The iVAST MPEG-4 Platform builds on the success of MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 open standards by revolutionizing the distribution of interactive audio/video content across broadband and broadcast networks. For the entertainment, enterprise and education markets, iVAST generates new business opportunities through the secure delivery of digital media, worldwide. iVAST is headquartered in Santa Clara, California and offers creative services through its Studio in Los Angeles. For more information, please visit http://www.ivast.com/.
About Modern VideoFilm
Modern VideoFilm is a leading provider of advanced technical services to the entertainment industry in Hollywood, Burbank and San Francisco. Mr. Barkat, its president and CEO, founded the company 22 years ago. The company provides a wide range of services that enable the production of major television programs as well as preparation of feature films for use in various electronic applications such as DVD, E-Cinema, pay per view, cable and over-the-air TV. In addition, the company serves as a main distribution conduit for many of the programs that originate in Hollywood and are sold worldwide by the major studios. For more information, please visit http://www.mvfinc.com
National Semiconductor is a registered trademark of National Semiconductor Corporation. All other brand or product names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.