Tru2way Enters 'Open' Era

As expected, CableLabs has launched a reference implementation (RI) for tru2way, a move that aims to stabilize cable's "open" middleware platform, stoke its retail potential, and create a common baseline for application developers to write to.

Ideally, the concept of enabling developers to produce apps that could run on any tru2way middleware "stack" without massive integration headaches could portend an app store environment akin to the model that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has made über-popular with the iPhone. (See A Tru2way App Store? )

"Having an open source reference implementation to help developers interpret the specification will lead to a more consistent and stable television platform across the various retail devices, and set-top boxes provided by each different cable operator," said Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) SVP and chief software architecture Sree Kotay, in a statement.

However, the tru2way RI, which can be run on a PC so developers don't have to spring for testing on a cable headend and on a live plant, is also coming along just as some MSOs, including Comcast, are showing interest in using Flash in the set-top environment and tapping into that technology's massive pool of developers. Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE), meanwhile, has held that Flash can work as an extension to tru2way without having to become a formal addition to the CableLabs specs. (See Adobe: Tru2way Won't Shackle Flash , Can Flash & Tru2way Coexist? , and Comcast Offers Glimpse of Flash Strategy .)

CableLabs is offering the RI and tru2way source code implementation via Java.net, Sun Microsystems Inc. 's open-source project site. No surprises there, since Tru2way is based on the Sun PhoneME Java stack, the same Java core that powers Blu-ray players and the DVB Multimedia Home Platform.

The current version includes the DVR extension for OCAP (OpenCable Application Platform) -- the term still used in engineering circles for tru2way's middleware component. Future versions will track in components that support home networking and other features not covered in the first release. (See CableLabs Tru2way RI Exits Beta.)

CableLabs is offering the RI for free download under Gnu Public License (GPL) v2 open source license terms, allowing developers to contribute back to the "evolving software code and tool base." However, CableLabs is also offering it under a commercial license that, at last check, will cost about $100,000.

Update: CableLabs senior manager of vendor relations Phil Bender told Cable Digital News Tuesday that CableLabs has decided to make the commercial license available at no charge. "We want to lower barriers and have the platform grow and get more people involved," he said of the decision.

Although the reference stack is essentially being offered for free, many execs close to the tru2way effort have previously stressed that there's little chance that we'll see a flurry of new commercial tru2way stacks emerge on the market. It's more likely that the present stable of third-party tru2way middleware providers, which includes Alticast Corp. , enableTV Inc. , Osmosys SA , and Vividlogic , will remain relatively stable.

Bender told Cable Digital News last month that the cable R&D house was shooting for a mid-June introduction of the RI. However, folks who attended the JavaOne conference in San Francisco earlier this month got a speak peek. (See Is Tru2way Ready to Grow Up? )

The public release of the tru2way RI comes about two weeks in front of a July 1 deadline that calls for five of the biggest six "incumbent" U.S. MSOs to provide network support for tru2way middleware and to support the platform in the headends serving all their digital systems. Charter Communications Inc. has an additional year to get ready. (See Revealed: The Tru2way MOU.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:02:43 PM
re: Tru2way Enters 'Open' Era

CableLabs called this morning to note that the commercial RI license will be offered for no charge, and not $100,000, a price that was being considered last month. An update has been added to the story to reflect that. Jeff

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