The acquisition fits into @Home's effort to offer technology for digital set-top boxes, the devices that reside between a television set and the cable TV infrastructure. Advanced digital set-top boxes are actually computers, and can let users surf the Web or perform other interactive activities using their TV sets.
The acquisition gives @Home access to Full Force's Local.TV technology, which automatically broadcasts locally tailored information such as weather or school menus to homes. Full Force also has developed interactive television software, including a system for PacBell that lets people preview and download video on demand.
@Home already had access to expertise with the General Instrument boxes, but the Full Force acquisition gives the company expertise with Scientific Atlanta boxes as well, Wolfrom said.
Scientific Atlanta's advanced digital set-top box effort is called Explorer 2000, and it's designed to offer interactive applications, Internet support, video-on-demand, home shopping, and other features.
@Home got its start using regular computers and cable modems to connect to the Internet, as opposed to digital set-top boxes. Both methods, though, use the cable TV infrastructure.
Cable connections to the Internet are faster than dialup connections using phone lines, making the technology attractive for customers who want access to high-bandwidth services such as video--but cable doesn't provide infinite bandwidth. @Home limits the more demanding broadcast-quality streaming video to 10-minute chunks, although it places no limits on lower-grade Internet-quality video.
Local.TV can be used to send Internet-quality video, Wolfrom said.