Cox Communications will accelerate its foray into interactive television (iTV) and enhanced television (ETV) using a set of application development tools from Ensequence.

Under the deal, Cox will use Ensequence's on-Q publishing system to build iTV apps for a range of OCAP (OpenCable Application Platform) and legacy, pre-OCAP software, including Cox's OnRamp to OCAP platform.

Ensequence VP of Marketing Ashlam Khader said his company won the deal following an RFQ from Cox last year. He noted that Ensequence is supporting a new TVWorks platform that is being designed to conform with the evolving CableLabs ETV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) specification. The resulting spec will enable operators and programmers to offer bound applications that are synched to the program itself. The forthcoming, Java-based "user agents" will render the text and accept the ETV signaling on multiple types of set-tops running different types of operating systems.

"ETV BIF is being enlisted...and our tools will be used to work on this platform," Khader said.

Ensequence's support for the CableLabs ETV and OCAP specs was "key" to Cox's decision to use the company's toolset, according to Cox Director of iTV Product Development Vince Groff.

Enhanced apps that Ensequence supports include one from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) that provides access to wrestlers and upcoming WWE events that customers can buy with a press of a button on the remote. 

The WWE app is being planned for an end of the year deployment on OCAP and pre-OCAP systems, Khader explained.

Ensequence, whose licensees and/or partners include BBC, BskyB, MTV, Disney, EchoStar Communications, and Discovery Networks, also expanded its portfolio with on-Q Publish, a suite of software deisgned to help advertisers, programmers and operators update and publish iTV apps for various platforms.

At a more technical level, on-Q Publish is designed to update and port applications to different cable and satellite platforms whether the original app was developed in XML or HTML/Javascript.

on-Q Publish is a component of the deal Cox just signed with the iTV software firm. In that example, Cox could create a set of templates that local systems could use with area advertisers and programmers that are interested in offering interactivity.