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October 5, 1997updated 03 Sep 2016 4:50pm

NCI’S SET-TOP SPEC GETS HEAVYWEIGHT BACKING

By CBR Staff Writer

Oracle Corp’s Network Computer Inc unit has filed a set of proposals with cable research and development consortium CableLabs detailing a proposed blueprint for building the next generation of set top boxes that will enable consumers to surf the web and watch digital video – as well as receive regular television pictures – over cable. CableLabs has said it will choose a design by year-end from those submitted. Whichever design wins the beauty contest is guaranteed to be blessed by the cable companies which are seen as the key to accelerating the use of the set-top devices by US households. Current offerings such as Microsoft Corp’s WebTV or the NCI-informed NetChannel Inc have generated little momentum. With the backing of heavyweights such as Intel Corp, Cisco Systems Inc, cable equipment company Scientific-Atlanta Inc, Thomson SA and Netscape Communications Corp, NCI’s confident its proposal stands a good chance of winning out. Especially because CableLabs is said to have already rejected an initial proposal from Microsoft Corp based upon the proprietary Windows CE-based design which chairman Bill Gates demonstrated to cable industry executives in New York over the summer. NCI said the cable companies want to clearly control their own destinies, including content, and Microsoft’s design is seen an attempt to control the television viewing experience in the same way it controls PCs through the operating system. Also cable companies want to retain ownership of the set-top devices as they do now, where WebTV and other devices must currently be purchased by the consumer. NCI’s existing Enhanced TV design enables send web pages down to televisions over HTTP using the vertical blanking interval of current analog TV signals that can be adapted for sending data. NCI describes its proposal as a set- top-to-head-end design.

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