Comcast and Time Warner Cable have formed RDK Management, LLC, which will take the reins on licensing, training, community support and code management for the Comcast Reference Design Kit.

Comcast will contribute RDK components into the new entity, including the RDK code and specifications, related intellectual property rights and associated contracts, including all of the current RDK licenses, which will be transitioned to the RDK Management, LLC.

A spokesman for Time Warner Cable said that it would provide technical guidance, contribute code and financial support to the new entity.

The new joint venture also will provide continuity with the existing licensing program and continue to offer a licensing program similar to the existing program. In addition, the new entity will establish an expanded support program to provide technical support to RDK licensees as operators more broadly deploy the RDK platform.

The RDK Central web site, which was launched earlier this year, will also be utilized by the new joint venture. 

Since its public debut at The Cable Show last year, the Comcast RDK has been red hot among system integrators, app developers, original equipment manufactures (OEMs) and software vendors. To date more than 100 companies have licensed the RDK.

Comcast used the RDK for the Pace boxes that support its X1 platform and vendors are also using it to develop hardware, features and applications on Comcast’s X2 upgrade that will debut later this year. Other cable operators that have expressed an interest in the RDK include Charter Communications, Rogers Communications, J:Com and Liberty Global.

Time Warner Cable is trialing IP hybrid boxes and a cloud-based guide, but the RDK won’t come into play until later.

“At launch, the boxes will not run on RDK,” said Matt Zelesko, senior vice president, converged technology group, Time Warner Cable. “However, we expect to transition to RDK quickly both on the video gateway device and the IP STB satellites.

“We’re embracing the RDK, which offers an innovative and transparent way for our developers and those across the consumer electronics industry to work together efficiently and introduce new services to market with speed and superior quality.”

A spokeswoman for Rogers said this morning that while company has registered with the RDK community, it was in the early stages of the RDK process.

The Comcast RDK was developed internally using open-source components and by working with various vendors. The RDK is a community-based project that allows developers, vendors and cable operators to use a defined stack of software on one layer in order to provision set-top boxes and gateways.

The RDK allows all of the interested parties to develop once and then scale across multiple environments – in the CableCard/QAM/MEPG-2 world of today, as well as in the IP environment of tomorrow.

From a cable operator perspective, the RDK can cut down on the development cycle for set-top boxes and gateways from one or two years to six months.

The RDK includes CableLabs’ “Reference Implementation” for OCAP and tru2way, as well as the Java Virtual Machine (JVM.) Open-source components of the RDK include GStreamer, QT and WebKit, which are execution environments that can be tailored to each MSO. There are also optional plug-ins, such as Adobe Flash and Smooth HD.

The RDK is all about “service velocity,” which was demonstrated during demos at Imagine Park on the last day of The Cable Show in June. Demonstrations by vendors at Imagine Park showed that the RDK enabled them to develop products and applications in a matter of weeks instead of months.

“I think what we’ll see over the course of the next 12 months is more and more boxes that are supporting this and more of the operator apps that are supporting this,” Steve Reynolds, Comcast’s senior vice president of CPE and home networking,  said during The Cable Show RDK session. “You can see that a lot of the developers that worked on this panel are using the reference platform boxes. Obviously what we would love to see is real set-top boxes that operators are actually deploying running RDK, and certainly to add some of these great applications into these operator environments.

“I think that’s what we’ll see over the next 12 months, that scaling of the RDK platform.”