buzzwords, to hatch real-world fodder for a technology translation

Last Wednesday morning, the Rocky Mountain chapter of
Women in Cable Telecommunications hosted a “buzzword
workshop,” of sorts, for the participants in its professional mentoring
series. Charter Communications hosted in its engineering
headquarters south of Denver; about 15 of us convened
around a long table.

We were handed a piece of lined yellow paper, festooned
with terminology. Partial list: ITV (EBIF, PID, bound vs. unbound);
IP video/IPTV; connected devices, UltraViolet, DTA,
ROS, ARPU. Even “MSO” made the list, identified both as “multiple-
services operator” and “multiple-systems operator” — both
of which are technically accurate these days.

We chewed on these terms (and bagels, yogurt, and berries)
for about 2.5 hours. At the end, the most confusing and
interesting terms were identified as follows:

No. 1 Most Confusing: “ITV” vs. “IPTV.” Translation: “ITV” is
short for “interactive TV,” and dates back at least three decades,
in cable. These days, “ITV” also goes by “ETV” (enhanced TV).

ITV/ETV conversations usually beeline to companion terms
“EBIF” (Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format) and “OCAP”
(OpenCable Applications Platform, the technical foundation
for the consumer-facing “Tru2way”).

It’s all about letting TV viewers use the remote control to interact
with a show or an ad — instead of phoning in or texting
a response.

Such “bound” interactivity works especially well when viewers’
interactions can impact the outcome of a show. News
broke that same morning about David Hasselhoff getting the
boot from Dancing with the Stars. This sidelined us — with
relevancy! — for a few snarky minutes.

Note that EBIF and OCAP also do “unbound” applications,
meaning interactive stuff that doesn’t directly correlate with
the show or ad you’re watching. (Think guide, caller ID on TV,
VOD menu, “widgets.”)

IPTV, on the other hand, is one of many terms that signifies
the shift of video from now to next. From the distribution
pipes that traditionally led to the TV (e.g., the set-top), to the
distribution pipes that serve the PC (e.g., the cable modem).
It’s partly about putting Internet video (think YouTube) on TV,
and partly about putting TV on Internet-connected devices.
It’s a lotta lotta.

No. 1 Most Interesting: UltraViolet, the consumer-facing
brand for the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem
(DECE), focused on doing for professionally-created, ondemand
video what “TV Everywhere” is doing for linear video
— making it portable to your various screens.

Here’s a sampling of reactions, from my notes: “Sounds too
good to be true;” “if this really happens, it’s how it should be;”
“too bad it won’t do my iTunes library;” “if this lets us both rent
and sell movies to customers, I’m all for it.” My personal favorite:
“Who gets the digital locker in the case of divorce?”