Motorola Box Adds Wink to Its Eye


Building on the idea that less-sophisticated digital set-tops can carry interactive services, Motorola Inc. has given Wink Communications Inc. the nod to ride along on its DCT-2000.

An integration project that took more than a year combined Wink's electronic-commerce software engine with TV Guide Interactive's electronic-programming guide on the DCT-2000. The integrated software has been launched on boxes in Charter Communications Inc.'s beta-test bed in Madison, Wisc.; plans are to roll it out in 13 more systems in the next 30 days.

Charter has deployed more than 1.5 million DCT-2000s.

"I think it is exciting as you start looking at the interactive situation — the interactive-TV future — and it is really going to get people used to interactive TV and the commercial possibilities," said Motorola director of strategic marketing Bernadette Vernon. "It is important that we have software that can fully exploit the abilities of the 2000 and the [DCT] 5000. We want to make sure we have applications that meet what the cable operators and the end-users need."

Wink's e-commerce system — available in 5 million U.S. homes — lets viewers access additional information from advertisements and programs by using the remote control. Enhanced ads can provide coupons, offers and additional product information, while enhanced programs can include news updates, trivia notes or interactive games.

Wink has already been integrated with Scientific-Atlanta Inc.'s lineup of Explorer digital boxes and with Pioneer Electronics Corp.'s S-A clone. But finding a place on the DCT-2000 — the most widely deployed digital box in the U.S. — is a big step, said Wink director of sales Janette Corby.

"This really enables us to go after those particular geographies that have the DCT-2000 technology that we haven't been able to go after before," she said. "So it's really going to help us get a step-function shift, in terms of our overall deployment potential, which is why it is so exciting for us."

The need to share limited processing resources with the resident TV Guide software — which also acts as the DCT-2000's de facto middleware — made the integration process itself a challenge. It required a tight integration and a lot of thought, said Wink vice president of engineering Pat Ransil.

Wink plans to integrate with every make of digital box now deployed, so such an integration "is definitely good experience as we move forward on more of the boxes," Ransil added.