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  • TCI Selects Sony Home Networking Module For Set-top Boxes
  • July 30, 1998 (SAN FRANCISCO) -- Tele-Communications Inc.'s National Digital Television Center (NDTC) selected Sony Corp.'s consumer electronics middleware platform software for use in TCI's advanced digital set-top devices.
    Sony agreed to license its Home Networking Module to the large cable company for its next-generation digital set-top devices. The Tokyo-based electronics company will provide TCI with a version of the Home Networking Module middleware for use with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE operating system. No licensing terms or prices were disclosed by the two companies.

    Also, TCI agreed to adopt Sony's Aperios real-time operating system as an alternative operating system for use in its digital set-top devices.

    AT&T; Corp. of Basking Ridge, N.J. is in the process of buying TCI, in a huge deal that requires regulatory and other approval. AT&T; also is merging its international business with that of British Telecommunications Plc., in a partnership that will necessitate multiple layers of approval. Additionally, AT&T; recently completed its purchase of Teleport Communications Group. The TCI acquisition and the other large deals involving AT&T; could expand the market for the Sony middleware product for set-top boxes.

    The Sony Home Networking Module is a type of middleware that allows digital electronics products equipped with the i.LINK (IEEE1394) interface to be interconnected and interoperated. In this case, middleware refers to the software that runs between an operating system (such as Windows CE) and application software programs.

    The i.LINK interface permits devices to send and receive digital commands and digital audio and video streams at up to 400Mbps, according to Sony.

    "We are pleased that TCI has chosen Sony as a key supplier of technology for TCI's advanced digital set-top devices," said Yukio Kubota, deputy president of Sony's Digital Network Solutions Co. "Sony's Home Networking Module will play an important role in enabling cable TV set-top devices to provide next generation interactive services through the home network environment."

    "When equipped with the Home Networking Module and i.LINK digital interface, our set-top devices will be able to do more than just pass through HDTV signals," said David Beddow, senior vice president of TCI Ventures LLC. "All digital signals, including HDTV and interactive services, can be connected to other appliances such as digital television sets and digital video recorders by using the digital interface, which also supports a newly developed digital copy protection solution. The set-top devices will also be able to control, and be controlled by, a variety of other i.LINK equipped digital AV electronics appliances. In this way, they can serve as a value-added gateway for a wide range of innovative digital-based interactive services for the home network environment."

    Sony developed Aperios as a real-time operating system to support the complex needs of digital audio and video products such as advanced digital set-top boxes.

    Aperios can efficiently process continuous streams of audio and video content without interruption. For this reason it is appropriate for real-time applications. And because of its modular, object-oriented structure, Aperios is a configurable and scaleable real-time operating system. Sony said it can be utilized in a broad range of digital electronics products.

    Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java-based operating system for consumer electronics also may be a contender against Microsoft's Windows CE and the Sony system for running set-top boxes.

    Englewood, Colorado-based Tele-Communications Inc. is traded through stocks of the TCI Group, the TCI Ventures Group and the Liberty Media Group. Sony Corp.'s stock is listed in Tokyo as well as New York, as an ADR.

    (Neil Davis, Asia BizTech Correspondent)

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    Updated: Wed Jul 29 18:02:10 1998