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Charter announces it will take its set-top boxes to the cloud next year

Cable service provider Charter announced yesterday that it plans to integrate a cloud-based user interface into its customers’ set-top boxes. According to a report from GigaOM, the Connecticut-based company’s CEO Tom Rutledge revealed in the company’s second-quarter earnings call yesterday that Charter will introduce the new UI to all set-top boxes next year, regardless of how old they are, next year.

Charter has chosen ActiveVideo‘s cloud virtualization technology as a way to give every customer the exact same look and feel when they’re surfing their cable box. The new UI will be hosted in the cloud and rendered in a video stream that is piped down from onto the user’s screen when the box is powered on. As Rutledge noted when he addressed investors yesterday, developing and sending a new UI to customers via cloud is “a relatively minor capital expenditure, compared to a box rollout.” Indeed, the process of physically replacing every obsolete box would be a painstaking and expensive one.

Cloud integration comes with another perk, too. Once the transition is complete apps for services such as Spotify or Netflix, for instance – could be easily transferred to users’ boxes from the cloud as well. This could potentially provide a much better overall user experience, as well as saving time and money for the service provider.

Charter also announced yesterday that it has started converting its system to a 100-percent all-digital network with its rollout to customers in Tennessee and Louisiana of 200-plus HD channels, with improved picture quality, and faster speeds. The project will run through the end of the year, with groups of customers transitioning to an all-digital network on a rolling basis. The company plans to complete the upgrade across its 29-state territory by the end of 2014. Charter says it will double residential Internet speeds from 30 to 60 Mbps at no additional cost once the all-digital upgrade is complete for every customer.

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