Sun Microsystems Inc. is pushing for its "JavaTV"
software to become a global standard for digital interactive applications, one year after
its agreement to work with Tele-Communications Inc. and Sun's archrival, Microsoft
Backing the effort are six hefty consumer-electronics
companies: LG Electronics Inc., Matsushita Consumer Electronics, Motorola Inc., Philips
Consumer Electronics Co., Sony Corp. and Toshiba America Consumer Products.
Whether cable operators endorse the effort was not so
clear. Executives with both TCI and Time Warner Cable said they are in favor of anything
that's open -- and JavaTV purports to be open -- but they're still concerned
about the amount of memory needed for JavaTV applications.
MediaOne Group Inc., however, included JavaTV as part of
the requirements for the digital set-tops that it plans to order shortly.
JavaTV executives said they are developing a set of
application-program interfaces that they hope will be adopted not only by OpenCable, but
by the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) and the European DVB (Digital Video
A first draft of the JavaTV API is expected to be released
for public review by the end of the first quarter, said Eric Chu, manager of strategic
markets for Sun's consumer and embedded division.
Chu said a set-top box or digital TV that supports the
JavaTV API will offer consumers interactive television content such as enhanced
television, video-on-demand, electronic program guides and interactive, multi-camera-angle
The API will also address other functions such as
audio/video streaming, conditional access and access to in-band and out-of-band data
channels, he said.
Plus, Chu added, creating a global standard "will
broaden the market opportunities for interactive-TV content-creators to develop content
once and to securely deploy it to a wide range of Java-enabled television receivers."
Some consumer-electronics firms seemed ready to go with
"Java technology provides a natural decoupling layer
that allows the content industry to create compelling applications ... therefore, Philips
is pushing forward in this direction in a direct dialogue with JavaTV API," said Roel
Kramer, Philips' chief technology officer, in a prepared statement.
Gary Myer, president of Sony's
digital-network-solutions division, said Sony plans to "play an active role" in
the development of JavaTV APIs." Sony owns a chunk of General Instrument Corp.