DEVELOPERS AT THE SET-TOP GATE
By Simon Applebaum,
Cablevision, July 30, 1999
As advanced digital set-top terminals begin to roll out, interactive-TV
content and application ventures are taking a critical common step to
make their product compatible with the operating system and
middleware of any terminal anywhere. That step: joint
application-development programs maintained by set-top vendors
After all, the sooner content providers make their wares box-friendly,
the better chance they have to win cable-operator affiliation and,
ultimately, subscriber use. For General Instrument and Scientific
-Atlanta, each with a development program to its name, more
compatible applications fuel their self-interest in getting operators to
circulate their advanced set-tops in shorter order. "The more
applications through the box, the more valuable the box is and the
more boxes we sell," says Jack miller, business director in S-A's
digital subscriber networks unit.
Both S-A's "CreativEdge" and GI's "Horizons" programs have been
bustling with activity in recent months. Thirty developers are engaged
with Horizons, 15 are working with CreativEdge, up to 20 more are
close to signing up with S-A, and the entire program, geared to the
vendor's Explorer 2000 box model, is expected to grow to at least 50
participants within the next year.
"The advanced interactive set-top is opening up a range of developers
who want to work with us," adds Denton Kanouff, GI's digital networks
systems marketing VP. "We're even getting some play from
members of the Java and Linux application community."
Other set-top box vendors are exploring similar programs as they
bring advanced set-tops to cable operators. Cisco Systems
organized its own "Built for Broadband" avenue to bring application
compatibility along on not only set-tops, but on high-speed cable
modems and cable plant infrastructure, including headends, servers
and routers. Intertainer and Arepa were named as participants when
the program was announced at the Western Show last December.
Jonathan Taplin, Intertainer's co-chairman, wants to see common
protocol for applications, so that one version fits all operating systems
and middleware. "Sooner or later, we're going to have to set a
standard hat's the equivalent of HTML for the World Wide Web," he
says. "If interactive TV is going to explode, there must be a simple
framework for everyone writing their stuff."