Things I Hope to Learn at the Tru2way Conference
by Leslie Ellis // May 05 2008
For the two weekend days leading into this year’s Cable Show, the ITV-interested will again gather to hear the latest in “tru2way,” the consumer-facing re-brand of the OpenCable Applications Platform, or OCAP.
The conference, like last year, is focused on attracting the software developer community, which is substantial: The number of Java developers in the world is headed toward double-digit millions. (If you can write Java, you can write tru2way.)
Forget Cold Feet …
This mission is not without challenges. Those challenges have nothing to do with fear of commitment by cable operators. Here’s why: In the last three years, since U.S. cable operators committed to outfitting their systems and set-tops with unified middleware, two things happened.
One was good, one was bad. One was strategic, one was regulated.
The good and strategic was the sudden priority of 2005: The digital simulcast. By replicating entire analog cable lineups in digital, all channels (and their ads) are now fair game for interactivity. This is good. It’s often over-looked, but it’s still good. If the digital simulcast hadn’t happened, the number of channels and shows eligible for tru2way applications would be substantially smaller.
The bad and regulated was the July ’07 ban on integrated security, even in the set-tops cable providers buy and lease to their customers. Complying with that rule poured molasses on most cable video advancements — and erased at least a year from the tru2way-ing of America.
… It’s More a Fear Thing
Instead, the challenges for tru2way and developers are more about structure, scale, and fear.
That’s why I hope to learn of an actionable workflow for those supposed zillions of Java developers, itching to build cool stuff for cable-delivered TV. Some kind of clearinghouse for Developer Jane to test and certify her app, so that it can be approved to run on cable.
And what about a clearinghouse destination, like Handango.com is for mobile phone applications? Mobile carriers are similar to cable operators, in that they built, own and manage their own networks. They worry about rogue applications that could bring the network down. They aren’t set up to individually vet application ideas from millions of individuals.
Some found a way around it, though, by putting both approved and “at your own risk” applications on a phone-accessible web site.
I also hope to learn whether there are enough “un-bound” applications — uncorrelated with the show you’re watching — to attract developers. Let’s face it. So far, bound applications are sexier. They let people impact the outcome of a show. If bound apps are Ginger, it kind of works that unbound applications are Marianne: Necessary. Sensible. Pretty in their own way. Not Ginger.
Mostly, I hope to learn that the fear of that unknown and rogue application won’t stunt the action around good interactive TV.
This column originally appeared in the Platforms section of Multichannel News.