CableLabs® Selects Three Firms to Serve as Primary Authors on Key OpenCable™ Software Specifications
Details Released on Progress
Louisville, Colorado, September 14, 2000—Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. (CableLabs®) has announced that the cable industry has selected three companies to serve as primary authors of the OpenCable™ Application Platform (OCAP), or middleware software, specification.
By merging the power of the Internet with cable's broadband capacity, this specification will provide a national interactive television delivery mechanism to provide enhanced video services to cable customers. It is anticipated that the specification will be completed and will be ready for implementation by year-end.
The specification has two major components: an Execution Engine (EE), which will provide a programmable environment, and a Presentation Engine (PE), similar to a Web browser, which will provide support for creating and using the Web's standardized markup and scripting languages, Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and ECMAScript.
Sun Microsystems will be the lead contributor on the EE, while Liberate and Microsoft have been selected as lead contributors on the PE. Liberate and Microsoft have completed a first draft of their portion of the specification. Sun's contributions are based upon significant work already completed in applying Java™ technology for television applications. Corresponding Java technologies, including Java TV, have been licensed by Sun to CableLabs for use in the specification.
These companies and others will cooperate in helping the cable industry to advance its interactive digital video services to its customers. By working with industry experts in both cable modem (DOCSIS™) and digital set-top devices (OpenCable™) arenas, CableLabs has a proven record of completing complex specification development, which has provided open, widely supported specifications for the cable industry.
Canal Plus, OpenTV, and PowerTV will be additional key contributors to the specification through a regular review and comment process. Consumer electronics manufacturers also will be afforded timely opportunities to participate in the development of the draft documents.
"This selection of lead authors significantly advances our industry's efforts to add interactive services that our consumers want and our determination to move rapidly to strengthen our industry's competitive presence in digital video nationwide," said Brian L. Roberts, Chairman of the CableLabs Board of Directors and President of Comcast Corporation.
"This software agreement is a major milestone in our industry's continued pursuit of high quality digital services for our present and future customer base with the best broadband platform in the marketplace," said Glenn Britt, President of Time Warner Cable.
"Liberate was founded on the belief that standards and content will drive this market forward, and we're honored that CableLabs selected us to help drive those standards," said Dave Limp, Senior Vice President, Liberate Technologies. "CableLabs' decision sends a resounding message that interactive TV is here, and we're committed to working closely with Sun and Microsoft to facilitate the creation of standards for our colleagues in the cable industry."
"Microsoft is very pleased to continue to work with CableLabs and with Liberate to develop an OpenCable specification that benefits both consumers and the broad TV industry," said Jon DeVaan, Senior Vice President, TV Division at Microsoft. "In particular, the consumer comes out a big winner when the innovation and standards of the Internet are extended to enable new cable TV services."
"Sun is committed to supporting television industry groups and bodies, such as CableLabs, in the development of open, standards-based specifications for interactive television," said Patricia C. Sueltz, Executive Vice President, Sun's Software Systems Group. "The inclusion of Java technology as a core component of the OCAP specification demonstrates the value of Java as a premier content platform for the development and delivery of compelling, next-generation interactive content."
Because many elements of OCAP will be adopted from work that is nearing completion elsewhere, it is expected that the bulk of the specification can be delivered for implementation in the fourth quarter, 2000. It is contemplated that the OCAP implementation will be deployed in consumer set tops, digital televisions, and other devices shortly thereafter.
It also is anticipated that there will be a preliminary submission to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in November for consideration as an international standard. What this means is that when applications are written to this specification, they will be supported by OCAP cable systems throughout North America and the world. The CableLabs effort has been coordinated with Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) developers and with the Advanced TV Systems Committee (ATSC). CableLabs intends to continue working with these groups in order to eliminate issues of incompatibility among these software efforts.
The cable industry objectives are for the PE and EE specifications to consist of openly published, royalty-free interfaces for content. This will allow any vendor to develop a compliant middleware implementation that they can then sell directly to developers of OpenCable-compliant set-top boxes, television receivers, and other digital devices in the home. Thus, CableLabs will ensure that any of the 16 companies that responded to the CableLabs software RFP, or any other company, will be able to compete to provide software for such devices. (A list of the 16 companies is attached.) Indeed, it is hoped that those companies will participate in the specification drafting and review process that precedes adoption of any OpenCable specification.
This specification will allow the cable industry to take full advantage of the developer community providing interactive technology for the Internet. At the same time, the emerging community using Java technology will be enabled by this middleware and can advance applications and services that will run interchangeably on cable systems worldwide.
OCAP is a separate effort from the Advanced Television Enhancement Forum (ATVEF) content specification, but OCAP does call for support and extension of ATVEF as a part of the PE requirements.
OpenCable is a fast-track initiative supported by leading cable television companies, software technology companies, and hardware manufacturers. OpenCable is managed through CableLabs with a goal of attaining interoperable digital set-top boxes and other advanced digital devices manufactured by multiple vendors. OpenCable reached its initial goal of a common hardware platform in late June, with the availability of interoperable Point-of-Deployment (POD), or removable security, modules.
OpenCable also seeks to enable interoperable interactive services and applications that can be offered by any cable system in North America through a common "middleware" approach. CableLabs has been evaluating responses to the OpenCable Software RFP, issued in September 1999, and has performed technical due diligence in a number of areas with a number of companies, including site visits.
Note: Sun, Sun Microsystems, Java and Java TV are trademarks or registered trademarks of Sun Microsystems, Inc., in the United States and in other countries.
The OpenCable™ Project at CableLabs
OpenCable is an initiative of the leading cable television companies, managed through CableLabs, with a goal of attaining interoperable digital set-top boxes and other advanced digital devices manufactured by multiple vendors. These devices would be capable of delivering digital video, data, and interactive services to a television set. This capability also may be built into consumer electronics devices, such as digital television receivers.
One objective of OpenCable is to enable distribution of the products competitively at the retail level. In other words, a consumer now has the option to purchase a set-top box at his choice of retail outlets, rather than being required to lease the set top from his cable provider, as is current practice. Further, if the consumer moves he will be able to use the set top in his new home, even if his cable provider has changed.
The OpenCable initiative, managed by the Advanced Platforms and Services group at CableLabs, has produced a set of interface specifications that define the next generation of digital cable television set-top boxes and other digital devices to be deployed by cable operators in North America. Key to these interface specifications is the definition of a removable security module, in the form factor of a PC card, also known as a point-of-deployment (POD) card. The POD module is the key to making the devices fully portable from one cable system to another regardless of the network operator. POD modules from several vendors have been verified for interoperability by CableLabs and are now available from cable companies to any customer that requests one to plug into a device purchased at retail.
Companies Responding to the OpenCable Software RFP:
- Canal Plus
- General Instrument
- Virtual Modem
About CableLabs: Cable Television Laboratories (www.cablelabs.com) was founded in 1988 by members of the cable television industry. A non-profit research and development consortium, CableLabs delivers innovations that enable cable operators to be the providers of choice in their markets. Cable operators from around the world are members. CableLabs maintains additional web sites at www.cablenet.org and www.ebif.tv.
CableLabs® is a registered trademark of Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. Other CableLabs marks are listed at http://www.cablelabs.com/certqual/trademarks. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.