Cisco Videoscape Emerges as Google TV Rival

Cisco Systems at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show unveiled a suite of hardware and software to blend TV and Web content. Videoscape will compete with Google TV and other solutions.

Cisco Systems is building digital television components it hopes to sell to service providers who want to rival Google TV and other systems aiming for the convergence of Web and TV content.

Cisco CEO John Chambers showed off Videoscape, which helps consumers search for, access and manage Internet video, cable television, video conferencing and other features, on Jan. 5 at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in La Vegas.

Chambers said Videoscape would help consumers watch any of their subscribed TV content from any device, including TVs, tablet computers and smartphones.

He said the service is designed to answer the question: "As video really starts to explode, how in the world are we going to share it in a convenient and simple way, much like the Internet."

Videoscape comprises a media gateway, IP set-top box and software components.

In a demonstration of the product, Chambers revealed an interface that looked very much like Google TV's Android-based user interface, with options to access recorded and on-demand video on the left.

Content and application tabs live on the right. Users may also tweet on Twitter or share information on Facebook about content they are watching.

Chambers made a short video with a Cisco Flip video recorder and played it back on a TV via the Videoscape media gateway, which processes voice, data and video content.

Chambers also placed a video call to his cousin in West Virgina, and was able to port content from Videoscape to watch on a smartphone via the IP set-top box.

"We think the future is going to be about reinventing the TV," Chambers said, emphasizing consistency of service quality across any device.

Unlike Google TV, Roku, Boxee and others of its ilk, Videoscape won't be sold directly to consumers.

Instead, the solution will be sold to cable operators to distribute to their consumers. In the U.S., this could give service providers a measure of control over the content they serve to customers. So far, Cisco has only confirmed that Australia's Telstra is on board for the product.

Cisco hasn't announced pricing or an availability date, but when the product is completed, it will work with the company's Umi consumer-teleconferencing product.