OpenTV will integrate MHP software from Alticast into its core middleware for interactive television. It is a move that could have real significance for the development of interactive TV.

Unlike proprietary OpenTV software, MHP is an open standard based on Java. In theory, applications developed for MHP can be authored once and run on any DVB-MHP compliant set-top box on any platform.

The Alticast AltiCaptor extension to OpenTV Core will offer network operators an MHP solution that is fully compliant with DVB standards in Euope and Asia. The OCAP standard gradually being adopted by the cable industry in the United States is also based on MHP.

The integrated solution from OpenTV and Alticast will provide network operators with access to the capabilities of OpenTV Core for the management of their set-top boxes and enable standards-based MHP applications to run in the same environment. It will also allow set-top box manufacturers to add MHP capabilities to products that already support OpenTV Core.

“We have been a leader at the DVB steering committee in developing the MHP standard and are pleased that we will be able to offer a comprehensive solution for MHP that leverages our reliable, proven middleware,” said Tim Evard, senior vice president and general manager of products and marketing at OpenTV. “It’s important to us that we continue to support the deployment and evolution of digital television throughout the world.”

OpenTV and Alticast expect the integration to be completed early next year, with commercial availability in mid-2006. OpenTV will then market AltiCaptor as an extension to OpenTV Core middleware.

“Alticast is excited about the MHP extension to OpenTV’s Core middleware. This will provide more options for operators. We are pleased with OpenTV’s evaluation and selection of AltiCaptor,” said IH Kim, vice president of marketing for Alticast.

OpenTV has been one of the leading providers of software for interactive television, deployed in over 54 million set-top boxes. The middleware is at the heart of the interactive platform of several operators, from BSkyB in the UK to Foxtel in Australia.

Alticast claims to be the most deployed MHP solutions provider, with products for satellite, terrestrial and cable operators.

Based in Seoul, South Korea, Alticast is a privately owned company. It has offices in Austin, Texas; Beijing, China; and Frankfurt in Germany.

OpenTV said that “As an open, non-proprietary standard, DVB-MHP allows service providers to build solutions composed of the best of each supplier’s products, both hardware and software. This prevents vendor lock-in and provides a flexible way to expand systems and service offerings and manage long-term system maintenance.”

The adoption of MHP is highly significant, and offers network operators a potential forward migration path and route to interoperability with other platforms. It also maintains the ability to differentiate their services and integrate with proprietary features that may be important to pay-television platforms.

MHP has begun to make an impression in some European markets. The adoption of the broadly compatible OpenCable Applications Platform by cable operators in the United States looked like being a serious issue for the company.

While EchoStar uses OpenTV for its Dish Network, rival satellite operator DIRECTV chose to adopt a middleware solution from NDS, which is controlled by its major shareholder. NDS acquired MHP capability in MediaHighway.

So supporting MHP seems like a logical, if bold, move by OpenTV, which could be important both for the future of the company and the wider industry.