x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Tech firm in limelight

A fledgling technology company backed by Mubadala Development is set to unveil a gadget aimed at people who want to surf the web while watching TV.

A fledgling technology company backed by Mubadala Development is set to unveil a gadget aimed at people who want to surf the web while watching TV.

Mubadala, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, has an undisclosed stake in the company. It will today unveil a media console device that enhances television watching with internet applications.

The company was founded and is run by Iran-born Anousheh Ansari, who started Prodea Systems on the same day she registered at the International Space Station to become the first female space tourist about four years ago.

Ms Ansari's device, the Nxt console, supplements TV channels with a variety of internet applications and can overlay personal content on top of existing programming. Prodea will distribute the device across the Middle East through an exclusive arrangement with the UAE telecommunications operator du.

Nxt differs from existing internet protocol television (IPTV) technology by providing an open platform so users are not restricted in what applications or content they want to add.

"You can be watching TV and press the Nxt button and have your Facebook or Twitter account streamed along the bottom without changing the channel," Ms Ansari said.

"There'll be new applications made available every day so people can just pick and choose what they like to have."

Ms Ansari said Mubadala initially approached Prodea last year and spent about six months doing due diligence on the company before investing in it.

That investment helped to bridge an introduction to du, the operator in which Mubadala owns a 19.75 per cent stake. After several months of development, du is helping to distribute Prodea's devices across the Middle East and will be heavily integrated with the operator's anayou digital portal.

Nxt will serve as an important "Trojan Horse" for du to distribute anayou across the Middle East, a key strategy for the operator as it embarks on its digital expansion. It will be available through du early next year with pricing details to be released closer to its commercial launch.

A significant trend emerging in the telecoms sector is how operators are beginning to diversify their offerings to customers, including digital content initiatives, as they begin to challenge successful websites such as Yahoo and Facebook that have secured the lion's share of online advertising.

"We are in talks with several major operators across the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Egypt, to sell the Nxt device," Ms Ansari said.

"Operators can price this out however they want … and we have a revenue share model that we work with based on the amount of services they subscribe to."

Nxt will also connect to mobile devices through Apple's iPad and iPhone and the Research in Motion product BlackBerry applications that will be released next year to provide users with the ability to watch recorded television on demand. Ms Ansari said Prodea was working on implementing live television to be streamed through the applications later next year.

Ms Ansari is a former US delegate to the International Telecommunications Union but became well-known internationally after she made a multimillion-dollar contribution to the X-Prize foundation that aimed to spur development of low-cost spaceflight.