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Bye Bye OCAP, Hello RDK

Mari Silbey

Put the final nails in the coffin for OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP), the cable industry's one-time platform for next-gen video services.

Steve Calzone, director of video applications development for Cox Communications Inc. , threw a handful of dirt on OCAP's grave at a recent Light Reading conference. Speaking on one of the day's panels, he declared, "It's time to leave it [OCAP] behind."

Calzone was careful to clarify that Cox won't abandon customers with OCAP equipment, but he did emphasize the need for a new development platform. "That looks like RDK," said Calzone, although Cox is still in the evaluation phase with the Reference Design Kit and hasn't yet signed on to be an official licensee of the technology. (See All the Way With RDK?)

RDK has gained significant momentum over the last year, and Calzone's co-panelists for the RDK Revolution session at the Light Reading Cable Next-Gen Strategies & Technologies event in Denver last week mostly sang its praises. The pre-integrated software bundle provides an open-source code base that allows cable operators to standardize certain elements of the set-top or gateway experience in the home, but also easily customize the applications that ride on top. Cable operators can choose different windowing platforms, user interface frameworks, and more, all implemented on the RDK stack.

Jaison Dolvane, president and CEO of Espial Group Inc. , the on-demand TV software company, called RDK and OCAP "fundamentally different" because RDK doesn't extend to the application layer the way OCAP was designed to do. In fact, said Dolvane, "I think if RDK goes into the application layer… I fear it will break."

Calzone agreed, saying he thinks Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has done a good job of maintaining a bring-your-own-application approach. Nicholas Nielsen, principal architect at Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), said his company is hoping to learn a lot from how Comcast continues to roll out its new HTML5 guide across X1 RDK boxes. Time Warner Cable, which is a partner along with Comcast and Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) in RDK Management LLC , is also developing an HTML5 platform for devices it leases to subscribers. (See Liberty Global Joins Team RDK .)

In addition to flexibility, another important element of RDK is the shared code base and a growing development community. Conrad Clemson, vice president of business development at Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), said that his company plans to be a good RDK partner, and that Cisco will have significant RDK code contributions to announce within the next 90 days.

Smaller cable operators will depend on the work that both vendors like Cisco and larger providers do to productize certain RDK offerings. As Espial's Dolvane pointed out, small operators don't have the scale to start major development projects and will look to others in the industry to provide more out-of-the-box solutions that they can innovate on only at the uppermost application level.

Bob Hunt, principal and strategic advisor at BroadbandBuzz, noted that RDK could ultimately lead to application-based buying of content, where service providers have an opportunity to pick up targeted content packages as TV apps. That approach could have implications for à la carte services in the future.

Regardless of where RDK ends up, there seems a great deal of industry enthusiasm for the platform that never existed in quite the same way for OCAP. The consensus is that RDK will lower the friction for development rather than slow it down. Cisco's Clemson may have summed it up best, "RDK is almost like anti-middleware."

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
4/6/2014 | 9:35:56 PM
few tears for OCAP
Aptly noted lack of industry enthusiasm for OCAP, which derived from an FCC-mandated effort to enable portability of services - hence removable security - for which where was never much consumer demand. Industry/Comcast-led RDK is something else entirely. Solving actual problems with real openness. 'Anti-middleware' - that's a good one, Conrad.
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