Video software

ADB CEO: Software Key to Tru2way Mastery

While there's something to be said for a new breed of digital cable boxes and TVs that can support the latest and greatest whizz-bang features, the CEO of Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) has a different idea about how to stand out from the tru2way supplier crowd: Do a better job integrating the hardware and the software.

And, based on its corporate and product makeup, ADB, which makes set-top hardware, would appear to be well on its way. It leans heavily on Osmosys SA , a corporate cousin that develops set-top software, including an OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) stack, the middleware component of the tru2way platform. What remains of ADB's Vidiom Systems Inc. unit still conducts rigid set-top application testing.

So far, that marriage has paid some early dividends. ADB's 4820C, a "set-back" box designed to mount on the back of some Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE)-made Bravia TV sets, is the first (and only, so far) tru2way set-top to gain certification from CableLabs . (See Sony Drives ADB's Set-Back, ADB Develops Tru2way 'Set-Back', and Sony, ADB Ink Tru2way Deal.)

ADB CEO François Pogodalla says that box is already undergoing network tests with "certain MSOs." But no word yet on when the set-back box will reach commercial deployment? "The sooner the better for everybody, but it's a complex project," he says.

ADB has two other tru2way-based boxes in the works -- a core, HD-capable box, and another with an on-board DVR and home networking capabilities.

Integration key to differentiation
Pogodalla readily admits that, from the outside looking in, it'll be difficult to see much differences among the initial wave of tru2way boxes, as many will contain roughly the same core features and functions.

While tru2way newcomers like Funai Electric Co. Ltd. (OTC: FUAIY) hope to differentiate on price, ADB believes it can distinguish itself by creating a stable platform that enables applications, such as rapid channel change and an interactive program guide (EPG), to run faster and more efficiently than on other vendors' boxes.

"We think that's something you can master through software," Pogodalla says.

And ADB, through its Osmosys division, is a relatively old hand when it comes to set-top software. It already boasts millions of box deployments based on the Multimedia Home Platform (MHP), a standard that makes up the bulk of tru2way's middleware element. MHP is also the base standard for Blu-ray.

Although ADB will continue to develop set-top products for the budding tru2way market in the U.S., perfecting the OCAP stack and licensing it "will be our forte," Pogodalla says, noting that his company already has discussions underway with "several" CE manufacturers that want to develop and sell tru2way boxes.

But ADB and its Osmosys division will have plenty of company in that respect. One recent example is enableTV Inc. , a company recently started up by several Vidiom founders.

In addition to developing its own tru2way applications, the Boulder, Colo., startup aims to be price competitive with a middleware stack Vidiom originally developed for OCAP Developers LLC, a joint venture of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC). (See Vidiom Founders Launch iTV Startup .)

ADB/Osmosys will also have to be wary of Alticast Corp. and Vividlogic , which also make and sell OCAP stacks. Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC) and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), meanwhile, have developed stacks for their tru2way televisions. (See Denver, Chicago First to Get Tru2way TVs and CableLabs Stamps Panasonic TVs .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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