Actiontec Electronics develops broadband solutions that connect people to the Internet, and a few of them such as ScreenBeam Pro, are in interest of film fans and film makers. To learn more about Actiontec products we interviewed Mike Ehlenberger, Vice President, Channel Sales at Actiontec.
Mike Ehlenberger has over 15 years of sales and management experience, he is responsible for developing sales, channel, and go-to-market strategies for Actiontec’s retail, distribution, VAR, SMB, and CLEC businesses. Joining Actiontec in 2002, Mike spearheaded partner driven channel initiatives, including Retail CPE programs, which helped launch Qwest’s mass-merchant business. Prior to joining Actiontec, Mike was Director of Sales and Marketing for AIMS Lab, Inc. where he launched the U.S. operations, and built a significant channel business. Prior to AIMS Lab, Mike was a principal in W2 Solutions Group, a Silicon Valley consulting firm specializing in assisting startups develop and execute market strategies. Mike has also served as Director of Sales and Marketing for AITech International, and SquareOne Software. Mike currently sits on the board of directors for TBC, which raises funds for Children’s Cancer Research as well as the advisory board for the Aquatic Protection Agency, dedicated to protecting marine ecosystems throughout the United States.
Bijan Tehrani: Our readers are filmmakers and film fans who love to watch movies—whether they’re on the big screen, a laptop, or a tablet. With the evolution of how we watch, two things consumers are constantly searching for are better internet connections and devices that wirelessly link their mobile screens to larger displays. Can you please tell us about different products Actiontec has developed to address both of these issues?
Mike Ehlenberger: We actually do have products on both sides of that equation. Actiontec is one of the largest broadband access device vendors in North America, so we are the incumbent device provider to companies like Verizon, CenturyLink and many others who are providing broadband, voice, and video services to customers over their networks. We build the connectivity solutions that go into homes and businesses that enable those services to not only get into the home, but also provide connectivity throughout the home.
One of our most recent solutions, ScreenBeam provides a wireless display receiver in a small form factor device that can connect to any HD display and projector via HDMI. The ScreenBeam Pro product, which is currently available on the market talks to a number of different devices that have wireless display capability. So in the market today, Windows 8.1 has built in Miracast functionality. Miracast is the Wi-Fi Alliance standard for wireless display. Microsoft integrated it into the operating system as a standard feature.
In the past, when you decided that you wanted to connect to a display, you might have to consider whether there’s a compatible display connector on the device and on the screen. Now, you can just click to connect it to any wireless display and that is as easy as connecting it to any other device, and you will instantly see your screen wirelessly up on the HD device.
ScreenBeam Pro will operate at a resolution up to 1080p, so you are getting full-HD quality wirelessly. It’s not limited to windows; millions and millions of devices on the market today that have wireless display. Android 4.2 and higher has wireless display. So do the best selling smartphones and tablets on the market: Microsoft Surface Pro, Surface 2, and Surface Pro 2, and all have wireless display. Many Intel based systems include WiDi, and of course Microsoft has made Wireless Display a standard feature in Windows 8.1. So really what you are seeing is that wireless display as a feature is becoming standard in all of these devices. A really good way to think about it is: any device in the future that has graphics capabilities and has a Wi-Fi chipset built into it will naturally have wireless display as a standard feature.
BT: Can you tell us about what’s coming in the future, and what’s available now?
ME: Yes, absolutely! Today on the market there are two products available: one is ScreenBeam Kit and the other product is ScreenBeam Pro. The difference between Pro and the Kit is that the kit is essentially a bundle. It’s the ScreenBeam Pro wireless display receiver, bundled with a USB transmitter and wireless display software and that is for Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines that don’t come standard with wireless display.
Looking into the future we have several new products planned. What I can tell you is that we have core partnerships and we have contracts with key stakeholders in the industry from a wireless display perspective. We are Intel’s developer of choice for WiDi, which is their version of wireless display. We are their foremost collaborator and are deeply engaged from the point of working with their engineers to find the right solution that will perform with Intel platforms.
We are Microsoft’s go-to as well. In fact, we are the gold standard within Microsoft for testing Miracast and wireless display capabilities. We continue to engage with wireless providers throughout the country that continue to embrace user experience to ensure that consumers and business users who are buying Actiontec ScreenBeam products will have the best interoperability and the best experience.
BT: As far as the Internet connection, do you have other devices that can help speed up the wireless signal?
ME: We do, but let me actually take that question and address it in two parts: one of the really great things about wireless display is that it does not require a wireless connection to the Internet. I know that many people are using it connected to media streaming services and want to use it for downloading and to project their screens onto HDTVs.
Miracast uses a standard called Wi-Fi direct, and that means that the source device—which can be your laptop, tablet and smartphone—is actually establishing a direct connection with the Screenbeam. The signal is being transmitted independently between the device and the ScreenBeam receiver so there is no additional network congestion. Actiontec has a series of products, like wireless network extenders, that use either MoCA technology or Home Plug technology to extend the signal from the consumer’s router to areas in the home which may not have great coverage.
BT: ScreenBeam looks like it’ll be a necessity in offices and homes alike. What is the pricing like currently?
ME: We think pricing is very important; for wireless display we are really positioning ScreenBeam products for the masses. We truly believe that every display in every home and every office around the world needs to have a wireless display receiver—needs to have a ScreenBeam connected. And the reason is that it enables anybody with a compatible device to walk into that room and instantly connect. Our price today here in the United States is $69.99.
BT: Apple still isn’t on board; any chance we’ll see Miracast support with Apple devices in the future?
ME: We would certainly welcome Apple into the ecosystem if they decide that they want to support the Miracast system. Their hardware certainly has the capability; it really is just a matter of them deciding whether or not they want this support on their platforms.
BT: Is there anything that you want to add?
ME: I think the great news for Cinema Without Borders readers is that, in the past, in order to get your content to another screen you needed to depend on a media player—some kind of box or device that was connected to your TV—where you had do some kind of file transfer or use some kind of application to be able to render and play your content. Now, with wireless display technology, anything is possible. The device that your readers currently depend on today—the mobile phone, tablet, or laptop—is always in their pocket or backpack or on their desk. And now it can easily connect to any HDTV, so when they find it appropriate to move their content to a larger screen, all they need to do it click a button and they are instantly connected to a TV.