The OCAP cup was overflowing during the day-and-a-half OCAP Developers Conference in Las Vegas earlier this week.
The OCAP conference, which kicked off The Cable Show ’07 in Las Vegas and ran from Sunday morning to noon Monday at the Mandalay Bay resort, was designed to help content providers and application developers acquire a thorough understanding of not only how OCAP functions, but also how all of the entities can make it profitable for themselves.
OCAP, which was developed by cable operators and CableLabs over the past 10 years, is a stack of software that resides between applications and the operating system within a consumer electronics device such as a set-top box or OCAP-compliant TV set. Unlike legacy set-top boxes, OCAP devices can have new information or applications ported to them because of their two-way capabilities.
While the conference was geared around helping developers find, develop and pitch applications to cable operators, it also gave cable operators a chance to say what the state of OCAP was during the "O is for Outlook: MSOs on OCAP Deployment and Plans" session.
Cox CTO Chris Bowick said his company has two OCAP trials underway and expects to have five by the end of the year and a national footprint next year. Cox is developing applications, such as weather, sports, and news ticker applications, on its On Ramp platform first. On Ramp is a subset of JAVA APIs that Bowick said will be applicable to the OCAP stack of JAVA APIs. On Ramp allows Cox to target interactive services to the legacy set-top boxes in the field while it transitions over to the high-end digital boxes.
"We’re well on the way," Bowick told the audience. "We’ve been working on the On Ramp for well over a year, and all of those are transferable to OCAP."
Mike Hayashi, senior VP, advanced technology and engineering, Time Warner Cable, said all of his company’s Scientific Atlanta headends and set-top boxes will be OCAP capable in the first or second quarter of this year. TWC has 70 percent of its headends on the Scientific Atlanta platform with the rest being Motorola.
"We hope to have a trial at the end of the year and deployment early next year," Hayashi said of the Motorola headends.
TWC has already had a trial of an OCAP-enabled Samsung TV set, and Hayashi said it will start a trial with S-A’s DVR OCAP set-top box this week.
Advance/Newhouse‘s Arthur Orduña, senior vice president, policy and product, said Advance/Newhouse was tracking the same as TWC with its Scientific Atlanta headends and set-top boxes.
Comcast‘s James Mumma, director, video product development, said Comcast expects to have OCAP-enabled systems in 80 percent of its footprint by next year. Currently, Comcast is running OCAP trials in Denver, Philadelphia, Boston, and Union, NJ. Mumma said Comcast has been focusing on an integrated guide for OCAP, getting DOCSIS Set-top Gateway (DSG) ready and production codes.
Comcast also made a significant investment in its nationwide backbone that it will use for OCAP. Comcast is looking at early next year for OCAP trials with its RNG-100 set-top boxes. Work ahead While the panelists were bullish on OCAP’s prospects, there’s still plenty of work that needs to be completed, or at least pondered for now. Orduña spoke about what needs to be done from a national perspective, both across the cable operators’ footprints and working in conjunction with broadcasters.
He said cable operators need to decide how they would handle voting for a show such as "American Idol" that cuts across different time zones and whether a cable operator would want to use OCAP for programming or advertising first. Then there’s the issue of using OCAP for cable networks vs. broadcasters.
"We need to identify the program and advertising approves that have the most value for us and for the programmers," Orduña said.
The panel also encouraged the developers in the audience to come up with applications that can grow from enhanced TV (ETV) applications into full-on OCAP applications that can be integrated across multiple platforms and set-top boxes and to keep a business case, for them and the cable operators, in mind when working on new products. – Mike Robuck