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  1. Technology
December 1, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

Despite having sold its newsroom automation systems business to Avid Technologies Inc, Digital Equipment Corp wants us to believe that it wants to play a full part in the interactive television world, and has announced four new interactive video servers supported by its Mediaplex video server architecture. The new offerings are the Mediaplex 24-channel and 40-channel ad insertion systems, and the Mediaplex 12-channel and 24-channel near video-on-demand systems. The company reckons that, using existing analogue wiring, the Mediaplex servers enable cable and telephone companies to win additional business by inserting locally customised commercials on cable channels or giving viewers more choice of pay-per-view programming and expanded schedule options. The 24- and 40-channel Mediaplex ad insertion systems digitally encode commercials using MPEG-2 compression, store and distribute them over cable networks to a pre-selected audience. Both are designed to encode and distribute a 30-and 60-second spot to a cable operator’s network in an hour or less. They offer local storage of 300 or more 30-second encoded ad spots and automatic verification of completed spots from the system for customer billing. They cost from $8,000 per channel – at that price you would be paying $320,000 – from February. The concept of near on-demand services is that the same movie or whatever is started every 15 minutes or so, so no-one has to wait longer than that to start viewing, and DEC says the Mediaplex Near Video-On-Demand systems offer the ability to broadcast multiple movies and other pay-per-view programming according to any schedule over existing analogue infrastructures. They can be used to program closely staggercasted distribution of one movie, a wider range of movies with more delay between streams, or any combination of the two. An optional encoding station is available so that service providers can digitise their own content. The system is available in two configurations – an Alpha-based server, priced at $180,000 for up to 12 video streams at 8Mbps with capacity to store up to 18 hours of encoded content, also at 8Mbps. A smaller one for up to six video streams is available for $150,000, now. A second AlphaStation system, at $200,000, provides up to 24 channels of output with the capacity to store up to 18 hours of content and will be out in the second quarter of 1996. DEC also announced a deal with Macromedia Inc, San Francisco under which the two will create a development system for applications that can be deployed on personal computers, the World Wide Web, and interactive broadband networks. Called the Mediaplex Application Development System, it will come bundled with Macromedia Director, Extreme 3D and xRes. The products will enable developers to create client applications that run on set-top boxes or personal computers; hardware is an Alpha-based Mediaplex Development Server and a Pentium-based multimedia personal computer. It has 166MHz Alpha processor, 64Mb memory, 4.7Gb disk 8Gb DAT drive, 17 monitor and keyboard. The personal computer has 100MHz Pentium with quad-speed CD-ROM, MPEG video board, 16-bit audio board and speakers and 17 monitor, and the system is from $33,900 with the software. And DEC has formed a Cable Industry Network Competency Centre, offering network consulting, integration and management services to cable and phone companies worldwide. It is in Littleton, Massachusetts.

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