A recent licensing deal between OpenTV Corp. and TeleCruz Technology Inc. shed light on the novel ways these two companies individually seek to bring interactivity to TVs and other appliances.
While operating on separate tracks, OpenTV and TeleCruz hope to demonstrate that interactive programming and content can be delivered to end-users without traditional set-top boxes.
TeleCruz will license Open-TV's "Device Mosaic 4.1" software, allowing it to support Web browsing in its new generation of TV-chip sets targeted toward TV original-equipment manufacturers.
TeleCruz's current chip set, the "TC702," provides "WebTV [Networks]-like functionality on a single chip," chairman Kris Narayan said.
The TC702 contains a reduced-instruction-set-computer processor, graphics coprocessor, programmable vertical-blanking-interval splicers, a software-based 56-kilobit-per-second modem and a "flicker filter" to enable user-interface graphics and text.
Future iterations of the chip set will include Ethernet outputs to support digital-subscriber-line platforms and cable modems.
Narayan explained that the chip set effectively places interactive and Internet processing and connectivity inside the TV. Placing the processing of information "between the tuner and the tube" improves on-screen display of text and graphics compared to cabling the TV to a separate box to perform interactive and Internet functions, he added.
TeleCruz uses standard complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor fabrication technology and counts Toshiba Corp. and NEC Corp. as its fabrication partners.
In addition to silicon, the TC702 offers a software architecture that includes application-programming interfaces to support the "VxWorks" real-time operating system, Wink Communications Inc.'s "Wink Enhanced Broadcasting," Advanced Television Enhancement Forum (ATVEF) content, Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.'s electronic programming guide, e-mail and Web browsing.
According to Narayan, the TC702 is designed for TVs or "WebTV-like boxes." His strategy is to convince TV makers-initially those serving the Asian markets-to build interactive-TV functionality into their boxes.
While it makes inroads in Asia, Narayan said, TeleCruz is willing to wait for "when the dust settles" in ongoing discussions between U.S. cable-TV operators and the consumer-electronics industry about what will constitute a "digital-TV-ready" box.
Once the industry's OpenCable specification matures and TVs with integrated set-top-box functionality become the norm, TeleCruz hopes to provide the silicon and software to power these digital interactive TVs.
In the meantime, Narayan said, TeleCruz has forged agreements with four top TV OEMs, including Zenith Electronics Corp. and India's Videocon Group. Within the next 12 months, it will ship 2 million units of its chip sets for Asian markets, including India, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.
The Videocon deal will place TeleCruz chips and software in Videocon TVs, making them interactive, Internet-ready devices.
Zenith will use the TeleCruz chip set for its multimedia-TV platform, incorporating Wink Enhanced Broadcasting content.
Narayan said the focus on Asian markets is important for TeleCruz because TVs are more affordable than PCs in that market, making the TV the appliance of choice for Internet access.
The U.S. market, he added, "is full of false starts," with "a lot of news, but no shipments." Consequently, TeleCruz will "go where the need is" for its interactive-TV products.
OpenTV also sees interactivity being enabled in other devices besides the set-top.
Chief technology officer Vincent Dureau pointed out that Device Mosaic is a Web browser specifically designed for embedded devices. OpenTV acquired the technology for the software through a recently completed merger with Spyglass Inc.
OpenTV hopes to make Device Mosaic available for a wide range of devices to access interactive services-including interactive TVs, PCs and cellular phones-thereby creating a "single repository for content and a single infrastructure for transaction management," he added.