High-speed-data service @Home Network will shift its
broadband-content smorgasbord beyond personal computers to televisions.
The company said last week that it has reached an agreement
with Tele-Communications Inc. -- which controls @Home -- to develop IP (Internet-protocol)
services and to provide integration services for up to 11 million advanced digital
The announcement, in part, links to an industrywide deal
shepherded by TCI in December, when the MSO placed a blanket order with General Instrument
Corp. for 11.5 million digital boxes.
Those boxes are earmarked for TCI and its "friends and
family," meaning other MSOs that TCI partially owns, as well as takers of TCI's
Headend in the Sky service.
The deal means that @Home will work with HITS on the
overall software integration, officials said.
The move sent the stock price of @Home parent At Home Corp.
skyrocketing. It moved up $2.38 last Tuesday, to $36.31, before settling at $32.75 last
Tom Jermoluk, chairman and CEO of @Home, said in a
statement that the agreement "will increase the speed of deployment of a full range
of @Home services ... Advanced set-top devices will leverage @Home's existing
backbone and infrastructure and expand our product line to a new set of IP services."
Bruce Ravenel, a TCI senior vice president, said TCI chose
@Home for the software integration because the MSO wants a consistent look and feel across
applications from different content suppliers, "so that there's not a
herky-jerky user interface when you move from one application to another."
Beyond that, he said, is the more complicated business of
client/server integration, which @Home is well-suited to do because of its existing
network of servers in its regional data centers and cable-partner headends across the
Those IP services will start with e-mail accounts that
@Home will provide for all of TCI's advanced set-tops by delivering connections,
geographically dispersed mail services and overall system management, executives said.
IP telephony -- a key piece of bait that hooked AT&T
Corp.'s recent interest in broadband networks -- was not discussed as one of the IP
services that @Home will facilitate or integrate.
On the software-integration side, @Home will work to make
interoperable all of the broadband services that are earmarked for play over digital
"That means making sure that there are the correct
application program interfaces, so that third-party developers can publish for the
boxes," said Adam Grosser, the @Home executive who is managing the integration
Grosser said @Home is currently putting together its
software team to handle the massive project, and @Home also plans to conduct a series of
conformance tests as part of the project.
"A good example of what we're looking at doing is
to create a Java tool kit that allows different MSO partners to create electronic program
guides with their own look and feel," Grosser said, referencing TCI's decision
to use Sun Microsystems Inc.'s PersonalJava software for content development.
Last fall, @Home put together a suite of broadband
applications that it considered well-suited to run on the industry's OpenCable
set-top platform, Grosser said. For example, MSO executives were shown how additional
content can be linked to simple channel-surfing methods, so that customers not only see
what is on, but the title of the program and its duration.
Other applications -- which Grosser called
"horizontal" in nature, because they expand existing channel space -- added five
additional "channels" that closely resembled @Home's PC-content
"It's content that looks and feels like TV, but
that is more a repurposed version of the @Home service," Grosser explained.
Ravenel said the selection of @Home as software-systems
integrator doesn't step on TCI's earlier selection of Scientific-Atlanta Inc. as
an integrator, because @Home's involvement "is much more personal to TCI and,
potentially, to other @Home affiliates."