Interview:'s John Allen on Interactive Television

By Jennifer Yonemitsu, July 2008  
— John Allen, CEO of

Sun Microsystems and have each explored using Java technology to address the challenges related to content development for the IP-based interactive TV market. Developers face tough challenges writing and deploying applications for existing proprietary middleware platforms.

To address these developer challenges, Sun and DigiSoft worked together and, in April 2008, announced the general availability of a Java Platform, Micro Edition (Java ME) based client platform for IPTV set-top boxes (STBs). This client solution incorporates Sun's Java technology-based media client and's middleware/SDK. This combined solution is suitable for IP-based media receivers.

Java technology has been widely adopted for digital TV standards, for example, OCAP, MHP, BD_J, and others. The Java platform enables streamlined development and deployment of next generation features and services for the TV market.


Figure 1: Video Ezy's electronic video rental service.

Definition of Terms

ARPU: Average Revenue per User.

CAPEX: Capital expenditures, used to create future benefits.

IPTV: Internet Protocol Television, a system where digital television services are delivered using internet protocol over a network infrastructure (typically, a broadband connection).

ITV: Interactive TV, a feature of digital television. It lets viewers interact with services or programs on their television via a set-top box and a remote control device.

STB: Short for set-top box, a device that connections to a television and an external source of signal, turning the signal into content that is displayed on the screen.

Telco: Short for telephone company, meaning any company that provides telecommunications services such as telephony and data communications.


Sun's Sr. Product Line Manager for digital media, Jennifer Yonemitsu, recently sat down with CEO John Allen to discuss this joint solution.

Q: Tell us about

Allen: I founded in 2000 to become a leading global provider of carrier-class solutions to IPTV operators. We deliver solutions that let operators develop, test, manage, and deploy next-generation interactive television services. Digisoft's scalable solutions reduce the capital expenditure needed to launch a differentiating IPTV service. We also make it possible to increase the average revenue per user (ARPU).

Q: has a number of solutions that include Java technologies. Can you give us an overview of the DigiSoft products that incorporate the Java platform?

Allen: Certainly. On the client side, we offer integrated solutions for Sun's Java ME-based media client and the Sun Media Receiver STB. Digisoft has a suite of Java applications for iTV, such as an interactive program guide, distance learning, USB movie download, karaoke, games, t-shopping, and voting.

On the server side, we offer the DigiHost Service Delivery Platform, for TV applications. This highly flexible and enormously scalable application server comes complete with SDKs for integration, server-side extensions, and client development. These services allow our customers and partners to develop next-generation applications that both differentiate and generate revenue.

Q: Sun and Digisoft have a combined middleware solution for Java based IPTV clients. Can you highlight the strengths of this combined solution?

Allen: We've combined Sun's Java technology-based media client with Digisoft's advanced middleware solution for IPTV STBs so that service providers can rapidly launch feature-rich, revenue-generating high definition (HD) services . These include Video and Music on Demand, karaoke, home shopping, network-based recording (NPVR) / time-shifted TV, games, and more on a wide range of IPTV STBs with H.264 HD and SD video. Selected encryption and watermarking technologies are also supported. The combined Digisoft/Sun software stack offers IPTV service providers an open, cost-effective, flexible IPTV middleware solution today.

Q: The Digisoft and Sun Java media client solution has just had some recent wins. Can you give us some of the highlights from these successes?

Allen: Video EzyR! Video Ezy, Australia's largest movie-rental franchise with over a thousand stores, announced the selection of's IPTV delivery platform and STB middleware to enable the delivery of the Video Ezy Electronic Video Rental service. It will be rolled out in Video Ezy and Blockbuster stores in Australia and New Zealand.

The main components of the Video Ezy Electronic Rental include an in-store kiosk with Movie library, Branded USB, or iPOD type storage systems, coupled with an in-home Java STB. The consumer plugs the USB or iPOD into the kiosk to select movies to rent for later playback on the Java STB.


Sun's Java Media Client Solution

The Java ME-based media client (JMC) solution is offered by Sun Engineering Services. JMC is built on such Java ME components as Connected Device Configuration (CDC), Personal Basis Profile (PBP), Java Media Framework (JMF), and Web Services API. This middleware solution for IPTV STBs features built-in and pre-tested applications such as:

  • Video on Demand (VOD)
  • Personal Video Recorder (PVR)
  • Live media/broadcast streaming
  • Games, information based services and more

Q: What benefits do you see to using Java technology in products and solutions?

Allen: Developer benefits include tools offerings, APIs, and Java's cross-platform benefits. Java technology offers flexibility around the various SDKs: an Integration SDK connects to telco Infrastructure (IMS, BSS, OSS, SMS content sources); the Server SDK enables the telco to extend the platform; the Client SDK lets the telco create the user interface/applications. These are all Java SDKs, integrated with the NetBeans IDE.

In addition, we provide an Interactive Program Guide that allows telcos to develop their own Java components to import and thus define their own customer experience.

Our solution leverages all that is good in Sun around scalability -- the Java Enterprise System (JES), Java EE, Solaris10, and Galaxy ( Sun Fire x64 servers) -- to provide a robust, scalable, distributable, secure platform.

We're also pleased with the openness inherent in the Sun offerings. The use of Java on the STB allows telcos to leverage the large Java community and its programs.

Finally, by eliminating middleware through the the Java Enterprise System and Java ME ports, we avoid the cost and complexity that result from using proprietary client middleware.

This concludes our interview. Thank you, Mr. Allen.

For more information
About the Author

Jennifer Yonemitsu is a senior product line manager for Digital Media Solutions for Sun Microsystems.

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