Another middleware company has been sold and Julian Clover thinks there’s a trend.
The Motorola Mobility purchase of the Dreampark middleware business is one of those acquisitions that makes you step back and have a little think about the direction of the industry.
A few months ago we had the Pace purchase of Latens. At the time very little was said about the deal, not least because it was somewhat sensitive that a company was attempting to spread it influence beyond the normal confines of a set-top manufacturer. As it turns out, Pace was just as interested in the often forgotten middleware aspect of Latens, the headend and billing capability as it was in the cardless CA with which it made its name.
To call either Pace or Motorola a set-top box manufacturer is to do them both a disservice, both have networks businesses, and Motorola’s development of smart phones and tablet devices is becoming all the more significant to the pay-TV business.
They are not the only companies that have an interest in developing the middleware side of their businesses, which for this season at least, is the new black. Netgem recently spoke of its business direction that may see hardware take a backseat as it exploits the software behind the over-the-top technologies it has successfully deployed from Australia to Monaco.
But what can Motorola want from a Swedish-based developer? Surely Motorola is capable of breaking into the Faroe Islands without the need to resort to such drastic measures?
One industry sage suggested Motorola might want to take Dreampark out of the market. But with a couple of dozen companies in much the same field this would be a time-consuming exercise to say the least. If nothing else this is one less independent in the field.
We should remind ourselves as to why middleware has become such an important feature, when not that long ago no one really cared. VOD is growing and so are sales of connected, or should we now say smart TVs. Zapper boxes are a bit useless when you want to tell your subscribers you are just as clever as you can find on the iPad. Don’t forget that HBBtv and YouView also give the free-to-air sector a chance to shine.
It’s the smaller middleware companies that are potentially in play here, the likes of NDS and OpenTV through its parent Nagra, have little to worry about. Besides they’re too busy extending their own businesses in other directions. It’s officially a trend.