MPEG-4-Based Entertainment Platform Launched

Seven major consumer electronics and technology companies have formed e-BOX Corp., a new company targeting the delivery of VOD and iTV services to cable operators.

The Tokyo-based joint venture includes Pioneer Corp., Sharp Corp., National Semiconductor Corp., Sigma Designs, CMC Magnetics, iVAST Inc. and Modern VideoFilm Inc. Each member will provide products and services reflecting their area of expertise. Comcast Cable Communications Inc. is advising the partners on the technical requirements of the system and intends to conduct field trials of the new services early next year for eventual deployment by North American and Asia-Pacific cable operators.

The e-BOX platform will include head-end equipment, system software, content-protection systems and digital set-top boxes. The new digital cable system, based on MPEG-4 technology, will enable services that include VOD with the look and feel of interactive DVD, e-commerce, bandwidth-efficient delivery of HDTV and high-capacity personal video recording. The consortium's technology will also provide stand-alone benefits for cable operators transitioning to next-generation entertainment services. Cable companies will also not need to replace existing digital cable infrastructures to use the compression efficiency, content protection and other enhanced capabilities of the MPEG-4 system architecture.