CableLabs to meld Europe's MHP with OCAP

Mon, 12/31/2001 - 7:00pm

Making the inevitable official, CableLabs said its North American MSO members have agreed to marry parts of Europe's Multimedia Home Platform middleware into the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP), the middleware specification for OpenCable-based digital set-tops.

CableLabs said OCAP will incorporate the "bulk" of the MHP 1.0.1 and MHP 1.1 specs, which were developed by Europe's Digital Video Broadcasting consortium.

With MHP firmly in the fold, CableLabs said it could complete and publish OCAP specs by February 2002. From there, the next steps involve the actual test plan, followed by certification/ interoperability waves.

Last July, news spread that CableLabs and its members were mulling OCAP revisions, and whether to incorporate both presentation and execution engines in the final specification.

OpenTV CTO Vincent Dureau noted that MHP includes two components: Java and HTML Java Script. "At this stage, we don't know if [both] will be used in OCAP. [CableLabs] has basically told us what the ingredients are, but they haven't told anyone what the recipe is."

An MHP-based version of OCAP would include both pieces, said CableLabs Vice President of Advanced Platform Services Don Dulchinos.

CableLabs' decision to incorporate MHP is a big win for Sun Microsystems, primarily because MHP uses a Java Virtual Machine implementation, which essentially "hides" the details of the box's underlying hardware and software and runs applications on top of the VM instead of the operating system and CPU. Ideally, that means iTV developers won't have to re-author applications to run on a multitude of operating systems.

CableLabs originally wanted to include a "significant" browser in OCAP, but an MHP-based implementation offers "a more lightweight HTML to take advantage of content without the burden of a tremendous amount of browser infrastructure in the set-top," said Bill Sheppard, Sun's group business development manager, digital television.

CableLabs has already licensed the intellectual property tied to Java, meaning potential implementers can get the source code and binary code directly from Sun or get the IP rights from CableLabs.

Microsoft TV officials took the decision in stride, and deflected reports that CableLabs' decision was a blow to Microsoft's set-top software plans.

"All this really is, is an announcement [by CableLabs] to do what they said they would do a year ago," said Microsoft TV Senior Director of Content Standards and Tools Paul Mitchell.

When asked whether an MHP-laden middleware is on Microsoft's roadmap, Mitchell said: "We've always stated and tried to be clear that we'll deliver what our customers want." He added that Microsoft contributed to MHP specs.

Mitchell also argued that OCAP isn't what cable operators are asking for, at least for now. "What seems to be the hottest thing on the request list now is something that fits in existing boxes," he said.


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