Osmosys Preps For U.S. Debut


Interactive TV software provider Osmosys, fresh from a series of wins in continental Europe, is gearing up to sell its multimedia home platform software for cable’s rollout of an OpenCable Applications Platform — that is, as soon as the U.S. cable industry is ready.

In Europe, the company has already deployed its MHP software, which supports various interactive applications over the three major platforms: cable, satellite and terrestrial broadcast.

Osmosys is banking on the idea that U.S. operators will follow through with OCAP plans, which may only be hastened by interactive TV applications introduced by News Corp.-owned DirecTV Inc.

“We’re at a bit of an impasse,” said Anthony Smith-Chaigneau, Osmosys vice president of business development, likening the U.S. situation to that in Europe a few years ago. The breakthrough came once a company launched a field trial to get real-world reaction from consumers. “It’s toys for the boys,” he said.

The Osmosys European field trial came in 2002 in Finland, where 20,000 cable subscribers were offered a host of ITV applications running on MHP software. The trial, Smith-Chaigneau said, was a success.

Since then, six Italian broadcasters have launched ITV applications, including some prepay services, using Osmosys software.

Nagravision provides the prepay security features for some interactive services. Nonpay services include viewer polling, TV chat, recipes, sports and stock market news and information, enhanced TV and interactive games.

The company also has a deal for a 100,000 set-top rollout with a Belgian operator as well as a deal with a German satellite platform. “It’s a write once, read anywhere product,” he said.

“We have a solid interoperable MHP stack,” said John Dixon, Osmosys managing director in the Americas. “Philips picked us to be the MHP supplier in Europe.” He said the company is working with chipset manufacturers and other hardware suppliers, and it’s specifically focusing on OCAP.

Now, Osmosys has set its sights on the U.S. It has a visiting engineer at Cable Television Laboratories Inc. who is lending a hand in writing MHP-based OCAP specifications. The company has demonstrated products with U.S. operators and has participated with premium network Starz! for an ITV demonstration several months ago. In the demo, viewers were able to call up additional information about whatever movie Starz! was playing.

“We think we are extremely well prepared” for the U.S. cable market, Smith-Chaigneau said. “It’s time for the MSOs to get the technology. A lot of people have been ready for some time. We’re stumbling to get to field trial stage,” he said, adding that “the longer they wait, the more complicated it gets. MHP is about standardizing and fixing the fragmented ITV market.”

Cable has yet to rollout much interactivity, perhaps waiting to see exactly what News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch plans to deploy on DirecTV. Cable also continues to toy with the software configuration necessary to run OCAP applications. Osmosys contends its MHP stack inside a set-top obviates the need for additional middleware, per se.

“With MHP, you don’t really need middleware,” Smith-Chaigneau said. “You just need an application and content to exploit the engine in the box.”

The company has a software development toolset for MSOs and content providers to use. The SDK 2.0 is a Java-environment toolset allowing companies to test MHP and OCAP applications on Windows PCs. Osmosys also provides an editing tool, Tattoo, for content providers as part of its developers program.