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Sony Corp has released details of its new Interactive Videocommunication System which incorporates the Apertos operating system. No-one is actually using the product at the moment – it was only brought together for the first time just before being displayed at Telecom ’95 in Geneva. Sony said it is most likely to be used by private companies for professional applications, such as in hotels, in the first instance because it depends on Asynchronous Transfer Mode links that aren’t in the public telecommunications arena yet. Peter Aknai, senior consultant at Cambridge-based industry watcher Analysys Ltd, agreed and said that Asynchronous Transfer Mode deployment is happening, but in niche markets. More is happening with it in private markets on a piecemeal basis. Apart from Finland, which does already have a public Asynchronous Mode service, public telecommunications operators are not going ahead fasts with deployment of the new packet technology, he said. Sony is not ruling out its use for interactive television but accepts that limited availability of public Asynchronous Mode links makes this use less likely. The Interactive Videocommunication System comprises the operating system, control software, television set-top box and server architecture as well as the network. Apertos is an open operating system developed by Sony Computer Science Laboratory Inc in Japan. It is object-oriented and presents a minimal application programming interface to the applications running on it so software running on one type of machine, for example, can run on another without modifications. In addition, its behaviour can be modified at run-time, meaning Apertos can mimic any application programming interface. The Interactive Videocommunication System uses control software developed by Sony Telecom Europe to control both the server and the set-top box, and the operating system and application software. Sony said that the benefit of the system is that users will be able to subscribe to new services or upgraded services without having to forsake their current hardware.

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