Liberate Technologies landed a big fish with its
middleware-licensing deal from MediaOne Group Inc., and more may be on the way.
MediaOne has agreed to license Liberate's "TV
Navigator" set-top middleware and "Connect DTV Suite" services-management
software for the headend to support interactive and enhanced-television offerings such as
Internet access, e-mail and other services.
The companies did not disclose terms of the agreement,
which follows by several months a $50 million private-financing round for Liberate led by
MediaOne and four other major MSOs.
MediaOne's merger partner, AT&T Corp., is among
other operators looking at Liberate as a potential set-top-applications vendor.
AT&T Broadband & Internet Services is looking to
have a prototype of its General Instrument Corp. "DCT-5000" set-top ready by
this fall. It has picked Microsoft Corp.'s "Windows CE" operating system as
the dominant platform for its advanced set-tops, and it is considering a raft of vendors,
including Excite@Home, for interactive-TV applications software.
"We're talking to lots of software companies, and
Liberate is one of them," AT&T spokeswoman Tracy Hollingsworth said.
Comcast Corp., another Liberate investor, announced at the
National Show earlier this year that it had licensed Liberate's software to support
the interactive-TV services it will begin rolling out in the first half of next year.
Investors Cox Communications Inc., Rogers Communications
Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. still have not disclosed their plans for using Liberate
middleware in their digital set-tops.
The Liberate deal continues the "open"
digital-cable-systems strategy MediaOne set earlier this year in breaking from the
dominant GI/Scientific-Atlanta Inc. platform.
MediaOne is preparing to launch its Jacksonville, Fla.,
open-systems cable network -- the first in North America based on the European-born
Digital Video Broadcasting platform.
The MSO has said that it would use Canal Plus
conditional-access and interactive-applications software in Philips Consumer Electronics
Co. digital set-tops. Liberate's software would work in that system, as well as in
all others based on existing North American digital platforms, the company said.
"It's consistent with our efforts to have
multiple vendors in the middleware space," MediaOne vice president of
digital-broadband technology Stephen Dukes said. "We already have Canal Plus. I think
Liberate provides a potential future platform, as well."
TV Navigator will also work with whatever "open"
protocol applications MediaOne decides to use for e-mail, an electronic program guide and
Dukes said MediaOne's actual use of the Liberate
software would depend on its functionality with the rest of the MSO's platform and
its compliance with OpenCable application-program interfaces being developed by Cable
Television Laboratories Inc.
MediaOne still must conduct alpha- and beta-testing of the
middleware before any commercial deployment, he noted.