ITV Reference Code Is Closer

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CableLabs is evaluating several implementations of the middleware developed for its interactive application specification, and the consortium may choose one to be the reference design that it provides to other software developers.

The move, if CableLabs makes it, would provide a more complete toolkit for interactive TV software developers writing to the OpenCable Application Platform, the industry's standard for allowing set-tops, TVs and other devices to access interactive services.

A SERIOUS SIGN

It would also bolster the notion that this time, cable is serious about OCAP. The technology has been in development since at least 2000, when CableLabs said it expected OCAP set-tops to be deployed “shortly.” Last month, major cable operators promised to have OCAP widely deployed in their systems by the fourth quarter of 2008.

After years of development and investment, operators are hoping OCAP yields some kind of return in the form of new partnerships and services. This week's Cable Show in Las Vegas will host a full day of OCAP-related technology and business sessions.

Jud Cary, CableLabs' vice president of video technology policy and deputy general counsel, said the research-and-development organization recently issued a request for information to developers of OCAP middleware.

“In the Java world, they have a spec, test suite and a reference implementation,” Cary said. “We have the spec and the test suite. We're exploring to see if [providing a reference implementation] would be beneficial to OCAP developers.”

The only OCAP middleware Cary confirmed that CableLabs is evaluating is one created by Vidiom Systems. The Broomfield, Colo.-based interactive-TV software vendor was contracted to develop the “stack” by OCAP Development LLC (ODL), the joint venture established by Comcast and Time Warner Cable in 2004.

Cary said CableLabs will notify all the companies that responded to the OCAP middleware request for information before it announces any decisions.

COST WAS A FACTOR

Currently, three consumer-electronics makers — LG Electronics, Panasonic and Samsung Electronics — have developed devices that run OCAP. Others in the consumer-electronics industry, in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission last fall, complained about the “cost and uncertainty” of developing products that use the full OCAP specification.

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