Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable have come together to create OCAP Development LLC, a joint venture designed to hasten the development of the OpenCable Applications Platform (OCAP), cable’s key initiative to promote ITV applications.
The top two U.S. cable companies said the new venture will incorporate the existing Time Warner Cable OCAP-ITV development work — much of that software from vendor Vidiom Systems Inc. — and solicit third-party developers to build OCAP applications that would run across Time Warner Cable and Comcast cable systems, which together serve 23 million subscribers.
“This is a positive development for the programming community as it helps to streamline application development,” said Mike LaJoie, Time Warner Cable’s chief technology officer. “OCAP provides a uniform footprint with a standard implementation of middleware. Content providers will be able to write once for multiple platforms.”
FASTER TO MARKET
“The creation of this joint venture will benefit consumers by enhancing the cable industry’s ability to bring innovative new technologies to market even faster,” added Steve Heeb, vice president of product and business development for Comcast.
Cable Television Laboratories Inc. has published the 1.0 OCAP specification, and work has begun on implementing a middleware stack using MHP and Java, LaJoie said.
Time Warner Cable has been testing various ITV applications in a number of systems, and plans to launch an OCAP-based test in one system later this year.
“The stack is code complete,” LaJoie said. “We have built digital navigation on top of that.”
Heeb said Comcast had been doing its own OCAP development work. But LaJoie said “we decided it would really help OCAP overall if we were working more closely together because we could get more solutions to market quicker.”
One benefit, he said, was to get product tested on a broader set of consumer electronics devices, and to more effectively test OCAP applications on cable’s dominant Motorola Inc. and Scientific-Atlanta Inc. platforms, LaJoie said.
LaJoie expects the major CE companies to use OCAP stacks in future two-way TV devices. The joint venture “will allow Time Warner Cable to get its navigator, DVR, VOD, and HDTV functions to work on CE sets,” LaJoie said. “This will allow us to present all our programming and our guide on their platform.”
Heeb agreed. He said Comcast’s GuideWorks joint venture with Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc., designed to provide a better user interface subscribers, is an “interactive” application.
Future iterations of GuideWorks software will be written to OCAP specifications, he said.
“This platform will help solve the chicken-and-egg issue” with OCAP development and application providers, Heeb said. “With an open-standards platform, you can easily try new applications and don’t have to have hard coded development for 18 months.”