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PowerTV licenses browser

Spyglass's Web browser technology will be the underpinning of interactive capabilities for set-top boxes running on PowerTV's operating system.

Cupertino, California-based PowerTV has licensed Web browser technology from Spyglass (SPYG), filling in another piece of the puzzle for companies racing to provide interactive services through next-generation digital TV set-top boxes.

While current set-top boxes are mainly used to change channels or receive pay-per-view programs, Spyglass's Web browser technology will underpin interactive capabilities for set-top boxes running on PowerTV's operating system (OS), called HTML Engine. This will enable users to send and receive email, browse the Internet, and later, order and receive video on demand.

HTML Engine will in turn drive Scientific-Atlanta's (SA) forthcoming digital set-top box, the Explorer 2000. The device, ordered by Time Warner Cable and Comcast among others, now has Spyglass's Internet browser code to go along with a low-cost Sun microprocessor and HTML Engine.

The announcement underscores the lead Scientific Atlanta has in getting to market with an advanced digital TV set-top box. Though the General Instrument set-top box ordered by TCI has garnered more headlines because of high-profile agreements with Microsoft and Sun, SA's set-top offering will shortly go into field testing and is due out during the second quarter, according to the company.

General Instrument's boxes won't be available until next year.

For Spyglass, the PowerTV licensing agreement is the second major set-top win in less than a month, as Nokia last week licensed the browser for its digital set-top boxes in Europe. The agreement involves upfront licensing money and royalties.

Spyglass says its Device Mosaic Web browser code will be directly incorporated into PowerTV's OS, meaning browsing capabilities will be built in and future Web applications can be written for the OS itself.

Separately, Spyglass yesterday announced it has reorganized into four separate business units. The Spyglass arm that develops Device Mosaic Web and other cable TV and heldheld computer coding be based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Another division will be focused on SurWatch, the company's prominent Web filtering software.