Time Warner Cable is out of the starting blocks with the first launch of its cloud-based video-on-demand application last month in Syracuse.

As part of a larger refresh to its OCAP Digital Navigator (ODN) platform, Time Warner Cable digital subscribers in Syracuse now have access to the cable operator’s first-generation, cloud-based search and art functionalities for on-demand content. With the cloud-based VOD capabilities, subscribers see richer graphics when they go to Time Warner Cable’s VOD menu. The box art is cloud-based, as are the metadata servers and the sign up and search functions.

In a third-quarter earnings call last year, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said the nation’s second-largest cable operator was looking at a cloud-based user guide. Time Warner Cable spokesman Justin Venech said the cloud-based VOD application in Syracuse is a starting point en route to the deployment of IP-based set-top boxes late this year and early next year that will access cloud-based navigation.

“This [cloud-based VOD] is our first piece of the cloud guide working its way in there,” Venech said. “It’s not navigation from the cloud, but the VOD portion is cloud-based. When we do roll out cloud navigation, all of those pieces that we’ve installed for the VOD part will apply to the rest of the hosted navigation.”

Speaking on a panel last month at The Cable Show in Boston, Time Warner Cable’s Chris Cholas, director of subscriber equipment, said the MSO was planning on initial deployments of IP-based set-top boxes by the end of this year and into early next year before broader rollouts across Time Warner Cable’s footprint.

Time Warner Cable has signed on to use the Comcast Reference Development Kit. The Comcast RDK initiative provides a streamlined approach to the development and deployment of advanced set-top, gateway and system-on-a-chip (SoC) platforms. Cholas said Time Warner Cable has done a lot of modifications above the RDK stack with HTML5 in order to speed up its innovation cycle.

The cloud-based VOD application in Syracuse isn’t based on the Comcast RDK stack, but the IP boxes do use the RDK framework and will work in conjunction with the cloud-based navigation guide.

Yesterday, ActiveVideo announced that Comcast was testing its cloud-based delivery system in a trial of an enhanced VOD service in Chattanooga, Tenn. Comcast has licensed ActiveVideo’s CloudTV H5 platform and will use it to provide a cloud-based user interface (UI) for Xfinity On Demand customers to search and discover VOD content.

Time Warner Cable did not say if it was using a vendor for its cloud-based VOD application.

ODN guide gets makeover
In addition to Syracuse, Time Warner Cable has rolled out the updated ODN guide in its Charlotte, N.C., system.

“We kind of changed the look of it, made it more user-friendly and more consistent with the TWC app, and things like that,” Venech said. “So it’s kind of a facelift to the OCAP guide we’ve been using.”

The updated ODN guide was redesigned to make it easier for subscribers to find their favorite channels, search Time Warner Cable VOD movies and shows, or access digital TV features such as Start Over and Look Back. With the new guide, there are “intuitive” onscreen prompts for using Start Over and Look Back.

By using the “A” button on their remote controls, subscribers can access a “Find Channels” menu that allows them to access programming by categories more easily than in the previous version.

By hitting the “B” button, subscribers go to a search screen where they can look for movies or shows on the linear TV schedule or in Time Warner Cable’s VOD offerings