25 October 2006

Cisco at the ballpark, in your home, etc...

There's a lot of mystery surrounding Cisco's intentions regarding the ballpark. Now that the Arena in Oakland has been renamed "Oracle" would a new ballpark be named simply "Cisco"? Cisco Field? Cisco Park? Cisco Grounds? Cisco Yard(s)? Cisco Athletics Park? There's the remote possibility that Cisco won't be involved in the naming rights - but if Mark Purdy is right, Cisco is in it deep.

The innards of the ballpark will serve as a major showcase of Cisco technologies. While most acknowledge Cisco's role as a manufacturer of infrastructure products such as routers and switches, Cisco has been making inroads into the home market with its Linksys brand of networking gear and last year's purchase of set top box manufacturer Scientific Atlanta. They've also gone extremely high end when yesterday
Cisco unveiled their six-figure video conferencing product, TeleConference. The Bentley-Rolls version has three huge, 1080p (full HD) screens on one side of a table while "you and your team" are on the other side of the table. This will be a trial balloon for eventually cheaper, consumer-focused video conferencing and VoIP (Voice over IP) telephony products.

How could this stuff be featured in a ballpark? I'm no marketing whiz, but besides the obvious high tech touches such as WiFi and in-seat ordering, there's potential for other interesting uses:

  • Alternate Broadcasts. Do you think you can do a better job than the A's current TV play-by-play men, Tim Roye and Glen Kuiper? How about using a special booth set up to stream your version of play-by-play and commentary to a select audience? Want to have a broadcast entirely from the bleachers? It would be possible. Broadcast pros would no doubt wince at the idea, but it's a novel way to hit a niche audience (and prove how difficult the job really is).
  • "TiVo" at your seat. A fan could bring or rent an iPod-like device (with WiFi and a bigger screen, of course) that would have the entire game broadcast streamed and archived to it. Want to see that controversial replay they won't show on the big screen? No problem. Interested to see if The Gambler had pine tar on his left hand when he stunk up the joint in his last regular season start against the Blue Jays (hmmm, look at that picture)? It's available instantly from MLB.TV's archives.
Cisco CEO John Chambers brought up technology in a ballpark setting in a speech at Oracle's OpenWorld on Tuesday:

The individual would gain entry to the ballpark via an e-ticket on their smart phone. Digital signs inside the ballpark, if authorized by the smart phone, could display advertising tailored to the person's likes. Once in the game, the individual could use their wireless-enabled ultramobile PC to keep score on the device's electronic scorecard or hit its instant replay icon to view a contentious play.

Restaurants at the ballpark could use Cisco's newly announced TelePresence videoconferencing system to show the game on huge screens and allow diners to contact remote friends to watch along with them.
Cisco is partnering with AT&T on TeleConference, and the cable market has been turned upside down since the Governator signed AB 2987, which opens the doors for all sorts of competition in the cable TV market - including phone companies that sponsored the bill.

A video of the Cisco's presentation at OpenWorld is available at cnet. The preso is awash in A's logos and imagery, enough to make me think that they might try some of this stuff out in the Coliseum first.