Insight Set to Get Thin, Using Liberate Software

Liberate Technologies, continuing the industry's quest to bring interactive-TV services to "thin client" set-top boxes, released a new version of its "TV Platform Compact" software.

Insight Communications Co. Inc. this month will start using the software on Motorola Broadband Communications Sector "DCT-2000" set-tops already in subscriber homes. The widely deployed DCT-2000 has been a focus of thin-client efforts.

Insight in January chose the Liberate platform for its interactive-TV service.

"It's important for Insight to be adept in our approach to delivering new services to our subscribers, and Liberate's scalable compact platform freed us to move forward quickly and take full advantage of the DCT 2000 set-tops we already have in the field," Insight CEO Michael Willner said in a statement.

Insight officials were not available to provide details of the Liberate TV Compact Platform deployments scheduled to take place this month.

"Liberate TV Platform Compact 2.4" builds upon "VirtualModem" software developed by SourceSuite, a joint venture of Source Media Inc. and Insight Communications, Liberate director of product management Greg Thompson said. Liberate bought the platform from SourceSuite in an all-stock deal in March.

"This is the first Liberate release of this software," Thompson added.

Before the Liberate acquisition, SourceSuite had a deal to provide Insight with VirtualModem ITV software. Since bringing VirtualModem into its fold, Liberate has revved up the thin-client platform, improving the user experience and server-side scalability, he said.

In addition to user-interface enhancements, "this version is integrated with a couple of key applications," including Source Media's electronic programming guide and Diva Systems Corp.'s video-on-demand software, Thomson noted.

Insight launched Diva's VOD service on the DCT-2000 in Columbus, Ohio late last year, following a launch in Rockford, Ill.

The software runs Internet-based Web content and leverages Moving Picture Expert Group (MPEG) processing power on the set-top to display content in lieu of a full-fledged browser. This is a key factor in the software's overall memory footprint-300 kilobytes of flash memory.

Thompson said the software, which uses technology developed by SourceSuite, converts standard HyperText Markup Language (HTML) content into MPEG image frames and uses "smart" technology to make them interactive and scrollable.

Liberate is working on a major new release of the software-Liberate TV Platform Compact 3.0-which is scheduled to ship at the end of this year with "significant new features," although Thomson would not discuss details. Other operators are also ready to use the 2.4 version, Thomson said, but he would not name them.

Using the platform, "network operators can deploy the same set of features managed by the same set of servers" while deploying compact and full-featured versions of Liberate's software, Thompson said.

The importance of developing DCT-2000 software has not been lost on Liberate's competitors. In May, OpenTV Inc. announced it had ported its interactive-TV operating system to that digital set-top.

And Microsoft Corp., through its acquisition of Peach Networks Ltd. earlier this year, offers its "Microsoft TV Access Channel Server" software, which was developed for Scientific-Atlanta Inc.'s "Explorer 2000" and Motorola's DCT-2000.

Microsoft TV platform group director of marketing Ed Graczyk said there are no announced Access Channel Server deployments, but Microsoft is working with a number of unspecified operators.

The software is intended to be a server-based platform that requires less than 100 kilobytes of set-top memory and facilitates Web browsing, electronic mail, "walled garden" content and gaming and education applications. It also allows operators set up an interactive channel to offer subscribers a menu of applications from which to choose.

Graczyk said the browser application runs on the server and supports HTML 4.0, ActiveX controls, TrueType fonts and other Web-based functions.

In addition to server provisioning and set-top management, the platform also works in a mixed-network environment in which high- and low-end digital boxes have been deployed.