CableLabs has released for comment the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP), or middleware software, specification. This collection of specifications establishes a road map for companies from around the world to create applications for interactive services that operate over the broadband cable network.

In addition, by adding software interfaces to the existing OpenCable hardware platform, OCAP provides consumer electronics manufacturers with greater ability to build and market set-top boxes or integrated television receivers directly to consumers. These devices enable the same services available on set-tops provided by the cable operator.

Consumer electronics manufacturers receiving the draft OCAP specifications can participate in the development of the specification. So far, a number of consumer electronics companies have worked with CableLabs and its members to build OpenCable-based product.

CableLabs and representatives from a number of its member cable operating companies worked with many of the world's leading software firms to produce these OCAP specifications. The specification enables cable to merge the power of the World Wide Web with cable's broadband capacity, creating an interactive TV delivery mechanism to provide enhanced services to cable customers.

The specification has two major components: an Execution Engine (EE), which will provide a programmable environment; and a Presentation Engine (PE), similar to a Web browser, which will provide support for creating and using the Web's standardized markup and scripting languages, HTML and ECMAScript.

Sun Microsystems was the lead contributor on the EE, while Liberate and Microsoft served as the lead contributors on the PE. Canal Plus, OpenTV and PowerTV were additional key contributors to the specifications.

Because many elements of OCAP are adapted from work that is nearing completion elsewhere, some companies have announced that first implementations of the middleware will be available by summer 2001. It is believed that these OCAP implementations will be deployed in consumer set-tops, digital TVs and other devices shortly thereafter.