Sun announces digital TV solution centre in Sydney

Sun Microsystems will launch a Digital Television Centre in North Sydney, allowing local companies to trial Sun's Java-based digital television technology suite.

The centre, due to open in October, will give network operators, internet content providers, broadcasters and advertisers a "functional" preview of end-to-end, interactive television solutions -- code-named DVB-MHP -- based on Sun's Java platform.

Sun Australia invested $3 million in the facility, according to John Arnold, Sun Australia's technology sales manager. "It's not a static demo suite. It's a living, breathing technology suite," he said.

Sun's interactive television platform includes the newly released Java TV Application Programming Interface (API), an extension of the Java platform, providing functionalities like audio and video media synchronisation and an application model for digital interactive television.

The platform distributes localised, personalised and interactive content, according to Bob Wambaugh, Sun Microsystems' general manager of digital television. "My grandma's got to be able to use this," he said, referring to the content technology's local interaction features.

Several Australian partners will trial Sun's interactive television solutions over the next month, although executives would not reveal the names of the businesses in testing mode.

According to Sun executives, the major challenges facing digital TV providers were scalability, quality of service, the need for a carrier-grade platform, rapid service innovation and creating easy-to-use products.

"(The challenge is) how to build something that is an interactive back-channel to deal with enormous user traffic on a global basis," said Stephen McKenna, Sun Microsystems' sales director of entertainment and media markets.

McKenna believes digital television technology providers would only succeed if they produced portable, extensible applications allowing content to be viewed by multiple devices.

Responding to recent reports that Australian legislation could potentially restrict non-traditional broadcasting companies from streaming multimedia after 2002, Arnold said the industry should not hold its breath as "legislation (was) something we have no control over".

He claimed technology was changing so rapidly it would "outstrip" legislative changes. Therefore the internet industry was not at a "crossroads", he asserted.

Arnold added that it was "irrelevant" how internet content was delivered. Consequently, content providers were guaranteed a safe revenue stream compared to carriers and broadcasters, in the face of pending legislative changes, he said.

Sun Microsystems recorded $US1 billion in global revenue this year, up from $US70 million in 1999.

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