Interactive software and conditional access supplier NDS, which closed a deal last May to provide Cox Communications with its program-guide technology, is now working with the Atlanta-based cable operator to develop a number of interactive applications for the new tru2way software platform.
Cox is one of six large U.S. cable operators that signed agreements last year with major consumer electronics companies promising to support tru2way, which will allow programmers to develop standardized interactive applications for a variety of digital cable devices.
Cox and four other operators—Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision Systems and Bright House Networks—pledged to support tru2way-compatible retail devices across their footprints by July 1, and also promised that 20% of all new cable set-tops they deploy on a leased basis would be based on the tru2way spec. (Charter will fully support tru2way in 2010.)
NDS is now working to take a number of existing Cox interactive applications, including customer care, integrated telephony services, e-mail, news, sports, weather, games, movie listings, Mosaic video channels, widgets, horoscopes and lottery results, and rewrite them in the Java programming language used by tru2way. The applications are being rewritten to run on both Cisco and Motorola digital set-tops and are designed to complement Cox's new user interface (UI), which should debut this summer in select markets.
“They're closely integrated into the new UI we've designed for the tru2way boxes. They're not standalone applications,” says Steve Tranter, VP of broadband and interactive for NDS. “They're done in Java to accompany the guide, and they're very nice visually.”
According to Lisa Pickelsimer, executive director of video product development for Cox, the new UI is optimized for widescreen HDTV sets and designed to make navigating through Cox's growing array of linear and on-demand content much easier. It presents a list view of channels, shows and program information all on one screen, as opposed to the traditional grid-guide view.
Interactive applications like video-on-demand or digital video-recorder listings are also easily accessible from the main page of the UI, as opposed to being housed in a separate “ITV portal” that requires several clicks of the remote to access. VOD content can be browsed by the poster art of the movies, just as in a video rental store; titles, keywords or actors can be searched globally across linear channels, DVR recordings and VOD content.
“With the new guide,” Pickelsimer says, “the ITV applications are re-skinned to look like the guide and integrate with the guide, so it isn't a separate experience for the customer.”