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March 29, 1996

TVML SETS CHALLENGE TO VISUAL BASIC, VRML AND JAVASCRIPT

By CBR Staff Writer

A Cable & Wireless spin-off poses a challenge to the new favorites VRML and Java, and already has financial backing from games and cybermall firms……….TVML, the TeleVisual Markup Language, is the product of the multimedia division of Cable and Wireless telecommunications subsidiary, Mercury Communications Ltd. Set up as a separate company in a management buy-out by new managing director David Wainwright, it will launch the language alongside his company, TVML Ltd, in the next two weeks. TVML is an Internet language and authoring system that enables publishers to create real-time on-line applications. The TVML browser and demonstrations are freely available at www.tvml.co.uk. Once the browser is downloaded, applications are downloaded as simple mark-up language files with which, for example, an 86kb roller- coaster demo file is interpreted by the browser from a series of geometric shapes instructed by the mark-up language. Users can interactively alter the shape of the roller-coaster by dragging the image around.We’ve already built a village, said TVML spokesperson, Ken Butti, who sells the language as a fast on-line platform suitable for games and shopping. EMI and Virgin have already signed up. Virgin are particularly keen as they have a games site but still no games. Two other, unnamed, household name companies have come in with a blank checkbook to create three-dimensional cybermalls using TVML. At this stage it is just a demonstration of technology, said Butti, and although the company is eagerly peddling its wares around the technology backrooms of the industry, managing director Wainwright expects to either be bought out or incorporated into a major soon. TVML was jettisoned from Cable and Wireless in the company’s shake-up last year. It was developed in conjunction with a number of projects – interactive set-top television, hybrid CD-ROM and on- line consoles, such as the Sega Corp Saturn – but could not be supported as the company felt the pinch. The company was loath to release it completely and now licenses the technology to TVML while retaining full intellectual copyright and providing positive support. [Cable and Wireless] had too few outlets for consumer production, said Ian Mecklendburgh, who works at Cable and Wireless’ group development for Internet products. We are supporting it but don’t have the projects to use it. What this means is that Cable and Wireless gets to stay at an arm’s distance if it fails and scoops it up if it succeeds. Describing the language, samples of which are on the Web site, Butti puts it ahead of Java and VRML – it’s more like a combination of VRML and Java, he said, which is essentially what Moving Worlds is proposing for VRML2 (CI 2872) – and in the same camp as Netscape Communications Corp’s JavaScript and Microsoft Corp’s Visual Basic. The language claims a page layout editor and a scripting language that can create commercial, pay-per-view applications for the Internet, proprietary networks and cable. The software targets a transmission rate of around 3kbps and has been tested on a variety of networks up to full ATM broadband. The language also supports video and audio streams and a demonstration includes a TV screen in the corner. Click on the television and the language will bring in one of the video streaming packages available on the open market. Cable and Wireless may have been overrun by the momentum of the two major standards, Java and VRML, and that was certainly part of the company’s decision to take a back seat. In tones approaching Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront, Mecklendburgh may get the last line. TVML was good. We could have been a world leader.

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