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Java and Linux based IPTV kit and PVR from Amino showcased

EXPOCOMM Argentina 2006 Impressive even unplugged
Mon Oct 09 2006, 08:50
IPTV FIRM Amino, which makes linux and Java powered set-top boxes and an interesting Personal Video Recorder (PVR) was represented at the show by one of the local distributors.

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Amino AmiNET 120, 125 set top boxes, IR keyboard in the back.

I have been waiting over a year to see Amino's interesting kit in physical form rather than on paper and web sites, and finally I was able to do so at the show. The devices are very lightweight and well designed, the specs are great. But there was a problem: the units were unplugged. A company representative, Eng. Carlos Rodriguez explained that the "head end" side of the IPTV setup was missing from the booth, and that they were only showcasing these devices at the exhibition in order to attract the interest of all telcos who might get in the IPTV play in the near term.

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Engineer Carlos Rodriguez showing up the products at the Amino section of Multiradio's booth

The current "broadcast law" rightly forbid incumbent telephony operators from getting in the broadcast business transmitting broadcast video signals over the phone network. But sooner or later, it's expected that Congress will pass a law allowing for "Triple Play" to happen. The key question at stake is the customers will have a choice of provider based on "Local Loop Unbundling", of it the new regulations will just increase the current grip by incumbents on the "last mile".

The IPTV kit from Amino showed at the expo were the AmiNET 120, 125, and 125i set-top boxes. All three are PAL/NTSC Ethernet set-top boxes based on a programmable codec DSP and supporting both multicast IPTV and also video-on-demand using RTSP. The units feature Dolby 5.1 surround support via its SPDIF output, composite, RGB, component, and S-Video outputs, and feature an internal HTML browser. The codecs supported by the AmiNET125 are MPEG4 and MPEG-2. The 120 and 125 include an IR remote control and optionally an IR keyboard can be used with the device. Connection to the broadband cloud is done via its RJ-45 10/100 Ethernet port.

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Amino's product line-up. Sadly they didn't do a live test setup.

The Amino software is based on open standards such as Linux and Java, and Javascript and Java APIs are provided so that third party software and devices can interface with the set top box functions. Software updates can be delivered remotely using a signed software image authorised by the IPTV service provider. The multicast software on the head-end also runs on Linux. The web browser included throughout the entire product line is " Fresco" the same one once chosen by my favourite but sadly now-defunct company Prismiq. Fresco is a compact embedded browser but it proved quite limited in my opinion -at least on the Prismiq MP device-. Fortunately, the Amino folks are open to other browsers and they not only announced partnerships with Opera to offer it as an option, but also the open source Firefox browser.

The AmiNET 120 is a lower cost version of the 125, that does MPEG2 only, and is more suitable to video-on-demand services. On the chipset side, the AmiNET 125 STB is based on the Texas Instruments DaVinci hardware and software marchitecture.

All AmiNET IPTV set top boxes displayed at the booth sport an internal RF modulator -and RF input as well- for easy installation even in the oldest of TV sets. Finally, the AmiNET 125i offers support for MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4 even including the proprietary RealPlayer, WMV9 and DivX codecs. The "i" in 125i means "internet TV". The idea of the company is allowing you to watch streams and other PPV content from the internet not only on your PC but also from the comfort of your TV. The DRM-infected content is also supported by the 125i, which is kind of sad to see in an otherwise quite open solution.

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Close-up of the AmiNET 500 Personal Video Recorder appliance

Both the 125 and 125i models feature a USB port, allowing the connection of a Wi-Fi adapter. Finally, there was the impressive and small AmiNET500 personal video recorder, also an Ethernet based set-top box capable of scheduling and recording up to two IPTV streams simultaneously, and also providing other AmiNET set top boxes on the network with multicast broadcasts of the recorded programmes using RTSP protocol.

The AmiNET 500 PVR weights 1.4 kilograms and has a beautiful anodized aluminium enclosure, it includes a 80GB hard drive, with higher capacity options available. Recordings are done by default at 4Mbits/S, in Constant Bit Rate (CBR) mode, with support for both the MPEG1 and MPEG2 codecs.

All Amino devices can be configured via on-screen menus, and I really hope Amino's distributor Multiradio can have a working demo setup at the next exhibition, or that they let us test this solution by simulating a "video on demand" environment in our review lab, an experiment this scribbler would love to take part in, if only to learn the setup and configuration tricks and the software involved.

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Back of the AmiNET 500 PVR appliance

In short: this is the kind of open-standards, user friendly devices that new players that go over the WiMax airwaves -like Mexico's Telmex with its newly acquired Ertach unit- or even fiber-to-the-premises players like IPlan could use to give the incumbent telcos and the established CATV operators some much needed competition once the "Triple Play" services become a reality.µ

L'INQs:
Amino's Java/Linux based IPTV STB product line
TI's DaVinci architecture
Amino adds Firefox browser to IPTV offering
Mexican Billionaire grabs WiMax operation in Argentina
Telmex and Telefonica step on the gas pedal in Latin America
Telefonica bets on Latin America

See also:
EXPOCOMM Argentina 2006 coverage (updated list)
An IT and Telecomms show where?
Argentina, reversal of fortune
EXPOCOMM Argentina 2005 coverage
EXPOCOMM Argentina 2004 coverage

 

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