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OCAP authors: MHP no surprise

Wed, 11/14/2001 - 7:00pm
Anne Kerven

Yesterday's announcement it would adopt Multimedia Home Platform specs for the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) should come as no surprise to those following the situation, CableLabs officials say.

"The OCAP spec has been based on MHP for quite some time," says CableLabs VP of Advanced Platforms Don Dulchinos. Both specs are attempting to do the same thing, he says.

CableLabs said yesterday that MHP will be part of OCAP, the middleware portion of OpenCable, and added that North American cable operators have agreed to use "the bulk of the MHP 1.0.1 and MHP 1.1 specifications for the OCAP portion of advanced OpenCable boxes."

OpenCable is a CableLabs initiative that seeks to standardize and add portability to set-tops tagged for retail distribution. It consists of a hardware and software specification. While the hardware portion is complete, and covers the point-of-deployment (POD)-host interface for set-tops sold at retail, the middleware spec is still being finalized.

MHP was developed by DVB, a 300-member industry consortium that aims to design a global standard for delivering digital TV and data services. The group ratified the MHP standard last year, and it was adopted by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute.

Dulchinos says the specs still address both the executable and presentation engines.

"Those elements are still a part of it," he says.

DVB also says MHP covers both executable and presentation components of OCAP, as well as a Java Virtual Machine component from Sun Microsystems.

As far as authors who have been working on OCAP, Dulchinos says those vendor members worked on some of the foundation, but have not been working on the spec in recent months, since CableLabs took the project in-house. He adds that CableLabs is hoping those vendors will develop middleware that adheres to the specs.

At Liberate, Chief Strategy Officer Dave Limp says he was finding it "hard for me to curb my enthusiasm."

The company, as one of the authors on the presentation engine, has been working on the project with such other authors as Microsoft for some time. Sun Microsystems has worked on the executable engine component. "This builds another tier of specification and helps us define the Java components on the specs," he says.

But OCAP has to keep the uniqueness of the U.S. market in mind, he adds.

For Liberate, he says, incorporating MHP "gives us a unified content profile to send out."

Likewise, he says, Liberate made a "huge bet" on Java years ago. Sometimes such decisions get validated in the market. The company's low-end products, including software for servers and set-tops, are based on a Java profile, as is MHP.

The specs mean Liberate can tell developers that if they write at a DCT-2000 level, "It will run on higher end OCAP."

"It makes us feel good about our decision to jump into Java," something he says Microsoft has had "an allergic reaction" to using.

The adoption came as no surprise, he adds. "We were well-informed but very supportive."

A benefit to using MHP, he says, is that "a lot of the work on MHP is already done," and has the consensus of the market. "There will be nuances, there always are. They need the vendors to help work on it."

As to whether MHP focuses more on the executable engine's Java than the presentation engine's HTML, "The answer is probably yes, but the reason it's yes is the economics of the set-top. … I don't think anyone has abandoned the want or need for HTML. It's hard to paint priorities on this because it's always changing."

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