Hoping to find the customers which so far seem to have eluded it in the corporate and retail markets, Oracle Corp’s Network Computer Inc subsidiary has unveiled DTV Navigator software for delivering web pages and interactive services to the living room television via next-generation digital set-top cable boxes. The computer industry is betting that a […]
Hoping to find the customers which so far seem to have eluded it in the corporate and retail markets, Oracle Corp’s Network Computer Inc subsidiary has unveiled DTV Navigator software for delivering web pages and interactive services to the living room television via next-generation digital set-top cable boxes. The computer industry is betting that a huge market is going to open up as the cable operators replace current set-top de-scramblers with next-generation devices which can handle internet and interactive TV services. Vendors including Intel, Microsoft and Oracle are competing to provide the hardware designs and software that will meet specifications for these set-tops currently being established by the cable industry’s CableLabs research and development consortium. Oracle says it has won support from cable company Scientific-Atlanta Inc, which is to run DTV Navigator on its Explorer 2000 set-tops in a trial to begin by mid-1998. The software, which NCI claims is not tied to any particular operating system, is also being demonstrated running on the set- top hardware designs Intel Corp is previewing this week.
DTV Navigator provides client and server software enabling cable and service providers to use the vertical blanking interval of current analog TV signals to send digital services such as program guides, personalized news, email, interactive shopping and chat services to the viewer through a browser which runs in less than 1Mb RAM. NCI’s server software, originally known as Enhanced TV (CI No 3,225), enables a simplified version of the data stream which would flow from a server to a desktop PC to be displayed on televisions through a DTV Navigator client running in less than 1Mb memory. The client is a slimmed down version of the TV Navigator browser that Navio Communications Inc originally calved from Netscape Communications Corp’s Netscape desktop browser. NCI, which bought out Netscape’s interest in the Navio joint venture earlier this year, said it shaved 5Mb from TV Navigator’s memory requirements to meet the cable companies’ specifications. Gone it appears is Navio’s HTML-TV concept dubbed tv:, aping the http: prefix which standard HTML uses. However, DTV Navigator retains TV Navigator’s developer APIs and IQView image processing engine. Applications for DTV Navigator can be written in JavaScipt or HTML and run off Unix or Windows NT head- end servers. DTV Navigator supports both two-way co-axial cable systems and cable-in, telephone-out internet connections.
NCI says it expects to package the software in additional configurations for the satellite TV providers, future digital TV services (hence DTV) and for vendors selling other types of internet-based consumer devices. Any one of the connections may ultimately provide the pipe through which other home devices including PCs could be linked to the internet. NCI says it will upgrade its retail software offering early next year with the Navio work to compete with WebTV, enabling television pictures and web pages to be viewed alongside each other on the same screen. NCI’s existing retail package consists of software implemented on set-tops built and manufactured to its design by Thomson Consumer Electronics, and sold under Thomson’s RCA consumer brand with internet access and content services provided service by NetChannel Inc.