Google Factor: 12,300

Middleware vendor Liberate Tech- nologies certainly knows how to take advantage of a situation when the opportunity arises. It seems as if every time Microsoft Corp. puts the ball on the ground, Liberate is more than willing to pick it up and run with it.

Although Liberate doesn't have the same cavernous pockets or influence that Microsoft does, the company continues to be a maverick in the field, and has managed to carveout a number of significant deals along the way. As of Aug. 31, Liberate reported it had more than 2 million deployments worldwide with MSOs such as UPC and Insight Communications.

Liberate's most recent coup was a deal with Headend In The Sky. The agreement will soon result in the availability of Liberate's thin-client middleware and Liberate-powered application to millions of legacy set-tops, provided, of course, that cable operators opt for it. Still, the clock is ticking, because Liberate's rivals will certainly come to terms with HITS eventually. Comcast Corp. is also teaming with Liberate on ways to inject the "Compact" middleware platform on thin-client boxes.

Linked to all of this, CED has learned that Motorola Broadband is making Liberate software an option in many of Motorola Broadband's new thick-and thin-client boxes, including the DCT-2500, DCT-2000, and all iterations of the DCT-5000+.

Another feather in Liberate's cap is its involvement in the Open Cable Application Platform, a standards-based middleware being developed at CableLabs that presently is being retooled.

Others to watch:

OpenTV Corp: Extremely viable company that boasts middleware installed in 20 million set-tops worldwide. Despite successes with U.S. satellite and a combination of operators internationally, OpenTV's domestic cable deployments so far have been limited to a small trial with USA Media Corp. in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Canal Plus Technologies: Like OpenTV, Canal Plus is extremely successful worldwide. However, its limited domestic rollouts still makes the company an eager beaver. Although AT&T Broadband has shuttered a pilot project with Canal Plus in Jacksonville, Fla., the middleware vendor rebounded late this year with a real deployment (including middleware and conditional access technology) in Sacramento, Calif. with overbuilder WINfirst.

PowerTV: With more than 8 million boxes shipped with its combination operating system and middleware, PowerTV is as well heeled as any player in the space. It's also tied at the hip to Scientific-Atlanta Inc., which isn't a bad place to be considering S-A's relationship with Time Warner Cable.

WorldGate Communications Inc. The company's "CableWare" product is slated to populate Motorola's forthcoming line of beefier 2000-class boxes.