For those working on the leading edge of interactive TV technologies, the cable set-top box presents a challenge. To deal with it, four more companies have joined itaas’ enhanced TV developer program to work on enhanced binary interface format (EBIF) applications.

CableLabs’ EBIF specification has garnered a flurry of attention recently, perhaps because Comcast announced it was pushing EBIF across its footprint in 2009. Time Warner Cable is also moving forward to enable its set-tops to run EBIF. For the Time Warner announcement, click here.

Last week, Atlanta-based itaas announced that four companies – Integra5, Alcatel-Lucent, iCueTV and Tellytopia – have joined an itaas-sponsored consortium of members who use EBIF to work on software solutions specific to their businesses.

"EBIF has gotten a lot of recent attention because cable operators don’t want to replace all their set-top boxes," said Steve Borelli, VP of business development and marketing at Integra5, a software company that writes applications for blended communications such as TV caller ID and TV customer care.

Borelli said Integra5 wants to work with itaas because of its EBIF expertise and also because itaas is working with cable companies that are deploying EBIF.

"Historically, the set-top box environment has been pretty closed," said Borelli. "Vendors have had to work with set-top box manufacturers to get their applications on the set-top. CableLabs has come up with EBIF and tru2way as two centralized and open platforms."
Next step: tru2way In a perfect world, all set-tops would run tru2way, the Java-based platform formerly known as OCAP (for OpenCable Application Platform) that was designed, among other reasons, to enable cable operators to offer interactive advertising, pop-up news and weather, games, shopping, customer care and more.

"But tru2way is for next generation set-top boxes," said Jaspal Bhasin, chief operating officer at itaas. "EBIF has limited capability, but it can work on legacy set-top boxes, and it meets a market need. Obviously, a lot of developers are doing both," Bhasin said.

"EBIF is how we can get more applications to the TV and then later evolve to tru2way," said Borelli. "People we talk to think that tru2way is two to three years away from mass deployments."

The Comcast Media Center recently announced it was working with itaas on tru2way development. For more, click here.

For another report at the revival of activity in the interactive TV space, click here.

– Linda Hardesty

Read more news and analysis on Communications Technology‘s Web site at www.cable360.net/ct/news/.

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