Comcast has agreed to licence Panasonic middleware compatible with the Open Cable Applications Platform or OCAP for the US cable market.

The software developed by Matsushita, best known for its Panasonic brand, will be installed in digital cable set top boxes to be supplied to the cable operator as well as retail consumer devices. Panasonic plans to introduce an OCAP-compliant set-top cable box to the US market in 2005.

Panasonic and Comcast will also jointly develop a certification system for OCAP-ready devices and digital TV.

Under the certification system, OCAP devices developed by different manufacturers will be tested to ensure interoperability and compliance with OCAP standards. It is hoped that this will accelerate the adoption of OCAP in the United States.

“OCAP provides the software platform that opens a new world of systems flexibility for cable operators, and is an essential component to the future growth of interactive applications,” said Dr Paul Liao, chief technology officer of Matsushita for America. “We expect this agreement will expedite the adoption of OCAP and digital interactive cable-ready TV and deliver benefits to both consumers and the cable industry.”

“This work will help make the entire OpenCable hardware and software end-to-end solution a reality,” added Steve Silva of Comcast. “It also will benefit other manufacturers who will build devices, application programmers who will have OCAP as a national platform for application development, and other cable operators as together, Panasonic and Comcast work to make portability available.”

The Open Cable Application Platform is a middleware specification that is intended to enable the developers of interactive television services and applications to design such products so that they will run successfully on any cable television system in North America, independent of set-top or television receiver hardware or operating system software choices.