Panasonic, Comcast test iTV apps on plasma HDTV sets

Panasonic and Comcast will begin joint testing on an interactive digital cable-ready high-definition plasma television based on the Open Cable Application Platform (OCAP) specifications that cable operators have begun to deploy. This joint test, which will begin later this month, builds on the relationship Panasonic and Comcast announced at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The companies agreed to jointly develop digital cable set-top boxes and to explore and develop extensions to the OCAP specifications that will enhance and simplify consumers’ home entertainment experiences.

Integrating OCAP middleware into a digital cable-ready television will let consumers access current popular digital cable features, such as video on demand and electronic program guides, without a digital set-top box. It also will create new opportunities for the delivery of next generation, two-way interactive digital cable features like voting, e-commerce and gaming with the television.

“This is a major step in the realization of OCAP, and we are very pleased to be partnering with Comcast, the leading cable operator in the US, to test this exciting product,” said Dr. Paul Liao, Chief Technology Officer, Panasonic Corporation of North America. “Panasonic is a market leader in flat panel displays, and this is a logical step for us in terms of giving consumers access to an even wider range of high-definition options.”

“We are pleased to expand our relationship with a leader like Panasonic to develop the next generation of digital cable-ready televisions,” said Mark Coblitz, Senior Vice President, Technology and Policy, Comcast. “The development of OCAP-powered TVs is another example of how Comcast is working with the CE industry to enhance the consumer viewing experience by making it even easier to enjoy new interactive applications combined with the convenience of integrated digital cable services.”

Panasonic and Comcast expect testing of the new OCAP-powered TVs to run through 2007, and are targeting initial commercial availability of the first model for early 2008.

“The integration of OCAP technology into High-Definition Plasma televisions is the future of television. It opens the market for new and exciting interactive applications, including on-screen shopping, game play, voting, and many others that are only now being invented by software developers everywhere,” said Dr. Liao.