CableLabs® Issues OpenCable™ Specs; Hosts Digital Supplier Conference
Louisville, Colorado, August 5, 1999—Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. (CableLabs) today issued a final set of hardware specifications that form the foundation of the cable industry�s OpenCable™ advanced digital services project. All portions of the OpenCable hardware specifications now have been released to the manufacturing community.
The specifications are formally known as the Unidirectional Functional Requirements, the Bidirectional Functional Requirements and the OpenCable Network Interface. Their purpose is to spell out for suppliers and others how cable operators envision different elements of future digital video systems connecting and operating. These specifications included some key information that the manufacturers need to complete their design and manufacturing of digital devices.
OpenCable is the CableLabs managed project that will achieve creation of advanced digital devices from multiple suppliers that will communicate with one another, or interoperate. The project is also working to manage the development of a POD (removable security) module by the July 1, 2000, deadline established by the FCC to facilitate the availability of set-top boxes at retail.
The issuance of specifications coincided with an OpenCable project update meeting August 5 in Denver with representatives of technology companies. About 200 people were expected to attend the meeting from the software industry, consumer electronics companies, traditional cable suppliers, and from the Internet industry. Last year CableLabs hosted a similar conference, also in Denver.
Comcast Vice President of Strategic Planning Mark Coblitz began the conference by providing the cable industry�s perspective on digital devices and the future of retail marketing of cable services. "We are proud of the series of milestones and key developments that we have attained in this project," said Coblitz, who heads the OpenCable business team. "Last week�s interoperability test on PODs went well, we now have completed the hardware specifications, and today�s event kicks off the segment o f the initiative that will further focus on the software specifications."
The conference also included Time Warner Cable Chief Technology Officer Jim Chiddix discussing the industry�s focus on a common set of middleware software that will enable portability for future generations of OpenCable devices. "The process will include a competitive, open solicitation, as established in other parts of the OpenCable process," he noted. "There are going to be many opportunities in this open environment for consumer electronics companies and software companies to innovate," he said.
Chiddix added that by approaching the middleware element of OpenCable in this manner, companies may "create applications that can run on any cable system, rather than being tied to one proprietary system. This architecture will allow cable customers to move and to retain full functionality on cable systems," Chiddix said. "That is an ultimate goal of OpenCable."
The middleware approach allows service developers to write applications that run on any hardware platform and that are independent of any operating system residing in a particular device. This approach was articulated at the outset of the project.
Lisa Lee, OpenCable project leader for CableLabs, said, "This solution will allow us to provide the best product to the consumer. With the purchase of such a device, the consumer will be able to use their set-top box or integrated television in compatible cable systems. This also will provide a very competitive environment for new applications to be developed and deployed. Televisions as we know them today will be a thing of the past," she said.
According to Laurie Priddy, executive vice president of AT&T Broadband Internet Services, "AT&T Broadband continues to strongly support a retail strategy and this initiative. I see OpenCable continuing to show progress and to serve as the vehicle to meet the FCC's deadlines for retail availability of set tops." Priddy led a discussion on copy protection that included a representative from Warner Brothers studio and from the licensing administrator for the so-called 5C copy protection system. Circuit City provided a retailer viewpoint.
A panel moderated by Chiddix focused on set tops and digital television sets and featured speakers from Samsung, Sony Electronics, Panasonic, and the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA). A panel on point of deployment (POD) removable security modules included speakers from SCM Microsystems, Scientific-Atlanta, and General Instrument.
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 web sites at www.cablelabs.com; www.packetcable.com; www.cablemodem.com; www.cablenet.org, and www.opencable.com.
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