Among other forward-looking presentations at last week’s SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies was one that was based on a scripting language that was developed at Pontifical Catholic University in Brazil. Matthew Emans, Navic Networks‘ vice president of product management, chalked up his reasons why Lua, which means "moon" in Portuguese, would benefit the cable industry as a platform for interactive and enhanced TV applications. While there is a growing surge of two-way, OCAP-enabled set-top boxes and other devices, there are still a lot of legacy set-top boxes that cable operators are loath to rid themselves of.  Lua is an open source, scripting language with "C" style syntax that will work with both low end, legacy set-top boxes as well as more advanced models, and it also works with CableLabs‘ Enhanced Television Binary Interchange Format (eBIF).
Emans said Lua leverages existing byte codes without custom language, and it’s "not in the hands of any particular vendor." Lua is in the public domain and therefore free to the cable industry for inclusion in an eTV solution, and it has cross-platform scripting capabilities. Reference implementations of the Lua execution environment already exist for both ANSI C and Java, which would provide a migration path for iTV applications. "It’s flexible and can define its own functions, but it’s also lightweight and compact," Emans said. "It provides stability for video because each application has its own sandbox. It’s analogous to OCAP/Java. Because it’s flexible and fast, Lua is currently used in game consoles, portable game appliances and for AI and game engine purposes. It also has applications in robotics because it can provide scripted behavior for embedded controllers. A cable employee at the ET conference said he could envision running Lua on top of an OCAP application. Other examples of Lua’s cable abilities include running movies on demand on the front end while running a different application in the background. Video on stage The increasing amount of video content, and the devices to watch it on, were also the topics of discussion during several ET sessions. Gary Traver, Comcast Media Center‘s senior vice president and chief operating officer, said true video convergence is now in its early stages, and he expects the Internet to become even more video centric. Winning and keeping customers in the future will come down to which operators do a better job of serving customers with convenience, choice and relevance. "We need to separate the hype vs. reality," Traver said. "As market research tells us, the future’s less about a triple play or a quadruple play and more about being an integrated single play. A major battle for the customer is brewing. And the industries and companies that integrate and simplify how customers use these technologies will be the ones that are continuing to lead the way in 2010." HDTV will be a "game changer," according to Traver, but cable needs to have the offerings in place and have a presence at retail stores in order to do battle. "MSOs that have both a strong and growing HD content offering, and retail presence, are winning that battle," Traver said. "By focusing on HD before the February 2009 digital conversion, we can achieve a competitive edge."

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