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Cable operators move to Java services

A group of major U.S. cable operators and technology providers have jointly announced the formation of a Java Community Process Expert Group to develop a new Java technology-based digital television API standard — OnRamp to OCAP —targeted at legacy, resource-constrained cable television set-top boxes.

CableLabs, Charter, Cox, GoldPocket, Liberate, Motorola, Philips, Sun Microsystems, Time Warner Cable and Vidiom Systems are working together as members of the group to define the new specification.

Upon finalization of the specification (JSR 242), OnRamp to OCAP, a profile of the J2ME CLDC technology specification, will be available to all set-top box vendors, DTV application developers and service providers.

“OnRamp will make the interactive TV environment available on millions of legacy set-top boxes, allowing our industry to compete with iTV services deployed by DBS,” said Chris Bowick, senior vice president of engineering and CTO for Cox. “OnRamp is a subset of OCAP and applications written to OnRamp will be forward compatible with our OCAP enabled devices.”

OnRamp is a Java technology-based middleware platform targeted at the legacy set-top boxes that are currently deployed in large numbers by U.S. cable companies. It will bring digital television applications including video-on-demand, enhanced program guides and interactivity to set-top boxes incapable of running OCAP —OpenCable Applications Platform — allowing the widespread deployment of these applications even before OCAP set-top boxes become common.

In the future, most set-top boxes and digital cable-ready televisions will be built to the OCAP specification to allow the cable industry to deploy a wider range of more sophisticated interactive services.

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