Video software

CableLabs Preps iPad App Framework

5:45 PM -- NEW ORLEANS -- CTAM Summit 2010 -- CableLabs has built a "proof of concept" prototype that aims to give MSOs a common technical way to write navigation apps for Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPads and other IP connected devices using Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF).

The idea behind the budding architecture is to leverage EBIF so consumers can use iPads to search and navigate cable content, view trailers, use recommendation engines, and send channel-change commands to legacy boxes that don't speak IP. Those commands would be sent upstream from the iPad via the Internet, shuttled along to Web servers in the cable headed, and then translated and passed along, downstream, to the set-top box.

Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) CEO Glenn Britt alluded to this CableLabs work in May at The Cable Show, where Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) chief Brian Roberts demonstrated a prototype for what that operator is calling the Xfinity Remote. (See Cable Hearts Apple and To Xfinity... & Beyond!)

Here at a CTAM event panel about IP video, CableLabs senior architect Debbie Fitzgerald offered some additional details about the project, noting that the use of EBIF and Web services will help cable develop and deploy apps faster than ever before. She said the iPad app took about three and a half weeks to put together, noting that the same process could also leverage boxes running tru2way or a proprietary software client.

As described, the command from the iPad would be sent to an IP remote Web server in the proverbial cloud. CableLabs, she said, is looking at a variety of standard interfaces to handle those processes, but has yet to define a time frame on when that work might shift out of the proof-of-concept phase.

She said a common technical approach will help cable enhance their guides, improve search, and enable recommendations engines on new devices while preserving the industry's large base of legacy boxes. One-way Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) devices could also participate, but they would be more limited because they can't pipe information back to the MSO upstream about their status, such as what channel they are currently tuned to. (See EBIF Coming to DTAs and Comcast: DTAs Can Be 'Force-Tuned' .)

Todd Walker, SVP of video product development, offered an update on when the MSO will be deploying the Xfinity Remote. Well, sort of. "We'll be releasing this application very, very soon," he said.

But he agreed that tying EBIF with a Web services layer will help cable speed up app development time. "It's light speed compared to where we have been," Walker said. "The first thing we see is an opportunity for pent-up features we've wanted to do for a long, long time. It's a fundamental game-changer."

Earlier in the panel, cable execs said the industry will have to play nice with others if MSOs are to develop and launch apps on multitudes of CE devices, still the domain of competitors such as Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and others that are trying to siphon cable's value.

"That's going to be an outbound effort. We're going to have to work with people," said Michael Lee, VP of Rogers Ventures, a unit of Canada-based Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI).

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Garci 12/5/2012 | 4:20:53 PM
re: CableLabs Preps iPad App Framework

This IP back-channel seems to be very simillar to what TiVO was proposing to get rid of the Tunning adaptors, that is, using an ip backchannel back into the MSO's CO. Of course, for the iPad remote control solution, cable operators have an extra incentive to do it as opposed to giving TiVO a free pass.

It would be interesting to see how this plays out.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:20:50 PM
re: CableLabs Preps iPad App Framework

that's a good point. This approach does seem to be a bit in line with tiVo's proposal. What's been interesting, though, is that cable's been more apt to use backchannel to set up voD sessions and, soon, as a nav tool... but not for SDV.  JB


Garci 12/5/2012 | 4:20:48 PM
re: CableLabs Preps iPad App Framework

But in the end, as a nav tool they will send commands to the STBs via the RF port using a centralized gateway somehwere that bridges the IP and the RF world. With it, all the arguments about cost and security against using IP-based SDV are almost moot. Let's see if TiVO calls attention on this.

I also wonder what the latency of this system would be.... definitively not good as a "zapping" tool, I'd guess even a few 100ms would be quite frustrating.

Sign In