Putting HTML on iTV

Interactive television software firm OpenTV has launched new technology designed to make it easier for TV networks and producers to create iTV applications.

OpenTV, which develops software that allows television viewers to use remote controls to access interactive services, interact with advertisements, and control camera angles during sporting events, said its new OpenTV H2O platform and HTML Package 2.0 would use existing Web application server infrastructure and tools. As a result, broadcasters could deliver interactive content on both enhanced “thick” set-top boxes as well as “thin” clients.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company’s new H20 platform, is a client-server tool for thin set-top boxes, which are unable to support an embedded Web browser. The technology converts online content and ads authored in HTML and JavaScript into iTV applications, which are then broadcast to set-top boxes powered by OpenTV Core middleware. OpenTV’s middleware is deployed in more than 23.5 million set-top boxes worldwide.

The technology is being released in conjunction with the new version of OpenTV’s HTML Package, an embedded Web browser for enhanced “thick” set-top boxes. Version 2.0 supports advanced HTML features, while additional enhancements are planned to enable content providers to “push” HTML ads and content directly to set-top boxes using broadcast technologies, as well as to “pull” content via broadband connections.

Both products support HTML 4.0, Javascript 1.4, CSS 1 & 2 and DOM 1 & 2 and would also provide complete XML-based solutions for developing iTV content, OpenTV said.

The company, which is backed by AOL Time Warner , EchoStar Communications and Sun Microsystems , said the new tools are aimed at making it easier for networks and content producers to leverage existing HTML skills and content to create interactive television features and ads. That iTV content now also can be delivered to both thick and thin clients — overcoming a significant obstacle to the expansion of interactive TV services, advertising and commerce.

“We believe we can now deliver a more powerful HTML solution on thin boxes — including all OpenTV set-top boxes currently deployed in the field — than our competitors have been able to deliver on expensive, thick boxes,” said OpenTV chief technology officer Vincent Dureau.

The company, which is embroiled in a patent squabble with rival Liberate Technologies, said the HTML Package 2.0 would be ready for shipping this summer. The OpenTV H2O is expected to be available in the United Kingdom on an ASP basis in the summer of 2002, and on a product basis in 2003.

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