CableLabs Mulling OCAP Revisions

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Cable Television Laboratories Inc. and its members are working on a revised
version of the OpenCable Application Platform, a standardized middleware
specification designed to run applications on forthcoming OpenCable-compliant
digital set-top boxes, industry sources close to the situation confirmed.

Instead of an elaborate version of the middleware designed for pricey
advanced cable boxes, the revised version would focus on the core elements of
the original OCAP specification. It would be used to run inside 'a
next-generation, economically smart set-top box,' a source said.

CableLabs spokesman Mike Schwartz said Friday that discussions about a
revised version of OCAP are 'premature' at this point.

Designed for advanced digital set-tops, a draft of the original OCAP spec was
released for comment to the vendor community in March. A final specification has
not been released. Schwartz said the status of that has remained unchanged.

Last September, CableLabs selected Microsoft Corp., Liberate Technologies and
Sun Microsystems Inc. as OCAP's primary authors, with Sun handling the
executable engine for interactive applications and Microsoft and Liberate
teaming up for the application-presentation engine. Canal Plus U.S.
Technologies, OpenTV Corp. and PowerTV Inc. were also appointed as contributing
authors.

The revised OCAP, at a minimum, will include a 'Java Virtual Machine,' plus
extensions (such as security and channel tuning) for TV applications, sources
familiar with the situation said.

Under debate is whether it will include presentation engines such as
HyperText Markup Language. That decision could be left up to each individual
cable operator.

At the same time, the core version of the spec -- a version called OCAP 1.0
-- could evolve in phases to handle more features and functions.

MSOs would also be able to port legacy applications to the OCAP 1.0
middleware, sources said, adding that the altered version of the middleware
would also furnish a platform to usher in set-top hardware portability and open
up retail channels, which is the overriding goal of
OpenCable.

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