MIDDLEWARE by sabisharma84


More Info
									  Middleware is software that runs on content servers and within the operating
systems of various types of set top box in order to provide a consistent authoring
environment for content developers, often across an installed base of differing set top
boxes. Accordingly Middleware manufacturers must account for a number of
variables, the power of the set top boxes they wish to support, type of environment
provided to programmers for content development enabled by this constraint, and the
type of transport mechanism available within a given system.
Click On Other Layers

Generally speaking, set top boxes are divided into two classifications, thin clients
such as the Motorola and SA 2000 series and thick clients such as the Motorola DCT
5xxx and SA 8xxx as well as the emerging home media center products.

Thin clients feature basic functionality, usually enough to handle basic EPG and VOD
functions and have lower powered CPUs and less RAM. Because of these technical
limitations, middleware on these platforms tend to be head end rendered or use low
level code to get extra functionality out of the lower powered CPUs. However these
units have a very wide installed base in cable systems, so a large portion of the
industry is directed to serving them.

Thick client boxes, while less widely deployed are considerably more powerful in
terms of RAM and CPU speed. This extra power enables additional functionality in
the middleware such as support for a wider variety of content types and new media
functionality such as Flash and advanced scripting. These units are also beginning to
incorporate PVR (Personal video recorder, e.g. TiVo, ReplayTV) functionality, which
will enable the next generation of interactive television applications.

Development environments enabled by middleware also vary from procedural
environments which enable developers to write code directly to the middleware to
declarative environments where HTML or a similar language is used to describe the
layout which is then rendered by a browser or graphics engine incorporated in the
middleware. In general, thin client boxes use a procedural environment which can
best utilize their scarce resources, while thick client boxes have enough power and
internal resources to render declarative content.

While this rule of thumb is generally accurate, rendering of content does not always
take place on the set top box. The most common exception is the case of head end
rendering. This approach allows for declarative content to be rendered at the cable
head end and then sent to the set top box as an MPEG still. This still is sent either "out
of band", using a separate carrier frequency from the main multiplexed programming
feed, or in the case of recent digital systems within the digital program stream itself.
There are down sides to this scenario. In the case of out of band transmission, space
on this carrier is finite and it is unclear what would happen in a situation where many
competing programs are all carrying interactivity. In the case of digital delivery,
arrangements for data carriage are at an early stage with the MSOs and it is unclear
whether there will be a cost associated with it.

Listed below are most of the major players in middleware each with its own different
approach to these issues. It is interesting to note that most of these companies have
moved from providing just middleware to an end to end scenario, providing authoring
tools, head end products as middleware.


Alticast builds end to end interactive digital television systems with significant Asian
deployment. Their middleware product "AltiCaptor" supports both the DVB-MHP
and ATSC-DASE standards application and declarative environments through the
AltiJVM Java virtual machine and the Altibrowser browser. Alticast also
manufacturers the AltiComposer ITV authoring system and is one of the few
manufacturers actively pursuing multiplatform support.

Alticast AltiComposer


While this platform was officially discontinued in February of 2003, AOLTV remains
one of the best platforms to gain experience in developing ITV applications. This is
because all rendering is done on board, eliminating the need for expensive head end
simulators and out of band modulators, and developer info has been, until recently at
least, easily obtainable.

AOLTV is based on Liberate's analog "A" platform. While the level of HTML
implementation is below ATVEF spec (3.2 vs. 4.0), it does support a number of
functions not included in ATVEF, notably .WAV, .MIDI and a limited
implementation of Flash 3.0. See AOLTV Authoring.

AOLTV development documentation

Canal Plus

Designed for next generation digital set top boxes, currently deployed in Europe,
Canal Plus provides an end to end interactive television solution centered around their
Mediahighway middleware product. Media highway 2.0, the current release, is said to
support broadcast standards such as DVB, OpenCable, and ATSC, and applications
written in formats supported by these standards such as Java, XDML and HTML.



Espial (pronounced "S P L") offers a suite of OS-independent applications for set-top
boxes. These applications are built to support MHP, OCAP, ATVEF and other key
standards. Another product is "Espial DeviceServer," which may be used at head-ends
to provide value-added services.

Espial is a partner at the Java developer website Devicetop.com, where they offer
support furums as well as trial sdks and simulators.

Espial Suite for TV


Liberate is one of the few companies with significant US deployment with their TV
Navigator product installed on several million set top boxes within the Comcast
system. TV Navigator is available in four versions, the "S", "C", "M", & "A". The "S"
version is designed for high end set top boxes such as the Motorola DCT-5000 with
digital television input and features full ATVEF compliant HTML support. The "C"
or compact platform, which runs exclusively on the Motorola DCT-2000, is java
based with rudimentary HTML support The "M" or Micro platform is a java based
thin client offering designed to run on low end SA boxes. The "A" version is the
platform for AOLTV and is no longer supported by Liberate. See ITV Authoring for
Liberate Platforms.



MSTV is Microsoft's middleware which underlies a number of products, WebTV,
WebTV plus, PersonalTV and UltimateTV. These products allowed Microsoft to take
an early lead in ITV and if you can find them, WebTV Plus systems are among the
best systems to learn about ITV application development on. WEBTV allows the user
to surf the Internet on their computer, WEBTV plus adds ITV functionality,
PersonalTV allows PVR functionality, and finally UltimateTV bundles all these with
a satellite receiver. Unfortunately these products did not gain wide commercial
acceptance and are all either discontinued or on their way out.
Of late Microsoft has been concentrating their efforts on a end to end solution with
the MSTV server in the cable companies head end and a windows CE based
middleware on the set top boxes. Included in this package are standard cable utilities
such as an integrated EPG, and PPV and VOD support. The technology is said to be
compliant with a wide variety of Broadcast standards such as ATSC, DVB and
NTSC, and supports SMPTE 343 for interactive television, however it is unclear
weather it supports the interactive layers contained in the ATSC and DVP standards.

It is important to note that Microsoft has a number of other products such as the
Xbox, Media center, and its Windows operating system products, which either are or
can support much of the ITV functionality traditionally supported on set top boxes. As
such Microsoft is working to integrate these products into a cohesive whole.

Microsoft TV
WEBTV online documentation


NDS's middleware product, NDS Core is designed for the current generation of digital
set-top boxes and has seen deployment in Latin America, Asia, and in Europe on the
SkyTV system.. The basic version offers basic MSO services such as IPG and PPV
and conditional access, while the more advanced version offers very high level
HTML and Java support. NDS's Current deployments are based around the European
DVB standard, however they seem very interested in the North American market, so
an OCAP ATSC or NTSC version may not be far behind. Finally NDS is actively
working in the area of IP based broadcasting which may give them a leg up on the
emerging media center market.



Recently acquired by Liberty, and now a sister company to Wink and Ascent
(formerly Liberty Livewire) OpenTV has a number of middleware products.

The OpenTV system, also known as EN, is a proprietary procedural environment
based on the C programming language. It has seen wide deployment in Europe and
has a number of specialized composition tools which allow content development by

The HTML based Device Mosaic system was obtained by OpenTV through their
purchase of Spyglass and is advertised support all functionality specified in ATVEF
1.1 as well as HTML 4.01,SSL 3.0, and many aspects of CSS-2. There are a number
of systems currently running this system, notably Cablevisions IO system on Sony set
top boxes. It should be noted that the DM browser is sold as a commodity and while
the original code as shipped from OpenTV is quite good, there is a great deal of
customization done to it by the entities that license it, frequently causing erratic

Finally OpenTV's Prism system is an integrated (client and server) XML based
system designed to distribute content across multiple platforms such as PDAs and cell
phones as well as the set top box.



PowerTV is a subsidiary of STB manufacturer Scientific-Atlanta and its middleware
product is installed in 4.6 million set-top boxes worldwide. PowerTV's OS, includes a
middleware layer with an HTML 3.2 graphics engine and browser, and a C
programming environment for developers who want to build applications in a low
level procedural environment. In the past the browser, while part of the basic software
package, has seen only limited implementation. However recently SA has been
installing ATVEF-A compliant set top boxes on the NYC Cablevision system
indicating integration of true interactivity into this product.



Recently acquired by Liberty, and now a sister company to OpenTV and Ascent
(formerly Liberty Livewire) Wink is widely deployed (6 million homes) in both cable
and satellite systems and is one of the few analog implementations of ATVEF-B.
While there is said to be two versions, a proprietary thin client version and an ATVEF
compliant version, as far as we know only the proprietary thin client version has seen
any deployment. Because of its proprietary nature, this system is expensive to develop
for and information on it, hard to come by.



Worldgate is proprietary head end rendered system whose functionality is designed to
be integrated with products from a variety of other vendors notably TV guide IPG and
Wink. Like many other players in the industry, they have refocused their business
efforts, in this case towards licensing their existing technology and application

Revised Monday, 25-Aug-2003 14:06:01 CDT - h © 2000 - 2003 Local Enhancement
Collaborative & .

RecipesReferenceCookwareFine Whines


MediaHighway Middleware

Consistency, Cost-Effectiveness and Creativity

Middleware is the software layer inside the set-top box that dramatically improves
what you can offer your subscribers. It helps you create a consistent branded look
across the various set-top boxes you may be using. It enhances your offering
enabling you to provide exciting interactive TV and it extends the life of legacy set-top
boxes–reducing capital costs.

MediaHighway drives down the cost of set-top boxes by separating hardware and
software. It enables operators to source the best and most cost effective set-top box
that matches their business needs, using MediaHighway middleware to maintain the
same look and feel while adding features.

Regardless of the set-top box installed at your customer premises, your technical and
customer support departments need to be familiar with single software saving you
from excessive training, ongoing development and maintenance costs and major
support issues.

Integrating new applications is also simplified since MediaHighway comes with its own
development kit, providing “author once, use on many” capabilities.

No one has more experience than NDS when it comes to integrating middleware with
different manufacturers, models and chipsets. NDS middleware has been integrated
on more than 20 different chipsets.

That’s why almost 3 dozen leading operators including DIRECTV, CANAL Digital,
Premiere, Astra, CCTV and YES have all selected MediaHighway.

MediaHighway is one of the world’s most popular middleware products. To date it has
been shipped in more than 80 million set-top boxes. It is a feature-rich product that
enables you to lead your market with most wanted benefits including:

      Customizable, branded EPGs for SD and HD that enhance your brand while
       simplifying content selection and consumption – increasing ARPU.
      Hybrid capabilities adding a secure two-way IP connection to existing satellite,
       terrestrial or cable delivery.
      Easy upgrades using over air downloads – our customers have upgraded tens
       of millions of boxes this way.
      A single code base that reduces maintenance and support.

If you want to make the most and save the most on set-top boxes—your biggest
digital broadcast investment—you need MediaHighway middleware from NDS. You’ll
save money on your hardware, prolong its useful life, and get more compelling
content with most wanted features.

You’ll benefit from years of integration experience and you’ll be backed by the leading
name in digital broadcasting: NDS.

To top