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OpenCable Application Platform, or OCAP, is an operating system layer designed for consumer electronics that connect to a cable television system like Comcast or Cox. Unlike operating systems on a personal computer, the cable company controls what OCAP programs run on the consumer's machine. Designed by CableLabs for the cable networks of North America, OCAP programs are intended for interactive services such as eCommerce, online banking, Electronic program guides, and digital video recording. Cable Companies have required OCAP as part of the Cablecard 2.0 specification, a proposal that is controversial and has not been approved by the Federal Communications Commission. Cable companies have stated that two way communications by third party devices on their networks will require them to support OCAP. The Consumer Electronics Association and other groups argue OCAP is intended to block features that compete with cable company provided services and that consumers should be entitled to add, delete and otherwise control programs as on their personal computers.[1] On January 8, 2008 Cable Labs announced [2] the Tru2Way Brand for the OpenCable platform, including OCAP as the application platform.

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Technical overview

OCAP is the Java based software/middleware portion of the OpenCable initiative. OCAP is based on the Globally Executable MHP (GEM)-standard, and was defined by CableLabs. Because OCAP is based on GEM, it has a lot in common with the Multimedia Home Platform (MHP)-standard defined by the DVB project.

At present two versions of the OCAP standard exist:

  • OCAP v1.0
  • OCAP v2.0

News

Via Licensing announced the basic OEM license fees for OCAP 1.0 last fall 2006. They run $1.50 per device for product licenses, and $0.30 per subscriber per year for service providers. Service providers also have the option to obtain a one-time, five-year license for $1.50 per sub. Via Licensing has not disclosed how those fees are to be divided among the OCAP patent owners.

Globally Executable MHP

MHP (Multimedia Home Platform) was developed by the DVB Project as the world's first open standard for interactive television. It is a Java-based environment which defines a generic interface between interactive digital applications and the terminals on which those applications execute. MHP was designed to run on DVB platforms but there was a demand to extend the interoperability it offers to other digital television platforms. This demand gave rise to GEM, or Globally Executable MHP, a framework which allows other organisations to define specifications based on MHP.

One such specification is OCAP, the OpenCable Application Platform created by CableLabs which has been adopted by the US cable industry. In OCAP the various DVB technologies and specifications that are not used in the US cable environment are removed and replaced by their functional equivalents, as specified in GEM. On the terrestrial broadcast side, CableLabs and ATSC have worked together to define a common GEM-based specification, ACAP, which will ensure maximum compatibility between cable and over-the-air broadcast receivers. ACAP has recently been elevated to the status of "ATSC Proposed Standard" and cooperation with DVB is on-going. Both OCAP and ACAP services are now on air in South Korea.

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