Julian Clover speaks to the former Nokia executive now heading the Pace gateway business
In business the preferred journey should surely be evolution rather than revolution. The word relaunch should always be treated with the greatest suspicion.
The evolution of Pace from set-top manufacturer to technology has been swift. The jury is still out on whether the set-top will survive, but my hunch is that it will be with us for a while longer, in the meantime Pace is developing its position in the networks business. Set-tops are still there, but the recent addition of most favoured nation status from Pace owes more to work with platform operators (in this case BT) than a desire to return to directly to retail markets. A Philips DTT set-top box spotted in John Lewis is a red, or to be precise pink, herring. The licensing agreement that followed the Pace acquisition of the Philips set-top business has since expired.
Dr Mark Loughran, who joined last year from Nokia UK, leads Pace Enterprise, the international gateways business that includes recent acquisitions that include 2Wire and Bewan outside the United States. There is also the Latens middleware business, the £28.75 million purchase made last autumn, which caused many a furrowed industry brow. The conditional access part of Latens remains as a separate company.
Dr Loughran makes clear that Pace is involved in many partnership agreements and wasn’t going to let its prize interfere with any of them. “We have a Nagra team and an NDS team with hundreds focussed on integrating their solutions for the customers that want them.” He says that a key element of the Latens portfolio is an ability to take Pace further into the hybrid world. It all fits together, middleware that sits on the gateway and delivers back to the customer service centres that Pace acquired with Bewan.
As an example of the new middleware expertise Dr Loughran talks about Latens customer Lyse, which has built a multiscreen business on its coverage of the English Premier League. He adds there are also cable operators in markets like India where Pace can leverage the advantages of cardless conditional access.
From his time in Nokia Dr Loughran is able to give a unique perspective on what effect the arrival of apps on the TV screen might have. He says that the initial excitement turned to frustration and users are now more critical of what they use. “What matters is the experience of the given services,” he says, pointing to the difficulty of getting apps right for the phone. “Imagine if that experience can be replicated on the TV, it will get really exciting.”
This doesn’t mean that everything that works on a phone will instantly transfer to the TV. Heaven forbid that someone comes up with an app that offers fast channel change.