This is possibly the most advanced of the TV set top boxes that provide a 'Browser in a box'.
This system is gaining much popularity in the UK and Europe and is also becoming more prevalent in the United States. It has the backing of several very large players in the digital TV market and was founded as a joint venture between Netscape Communications and Oracle Inc.
Broadcast head end systems are generally built on Unix systems. Since the heritage of Liberate is that of the Netscape browser, the Liberate platform relates to the Microsoft TV platform in much the same way as the Netscape browser does to the MSIE browser.
From the consumer's point of view, one of the benefits of the Digital TV revolution is that generally the set-top boxes are supplied by the broadcasters. The broadcaster already has control over what gets transmitted from the head end and can now control how it is received. Although we have competing standards for set-top boxes, a TV set-top box will generally receive a predictable content model from the broadcast headend.
The Liberate platform does all that the WebTV and Microsoft TV platform does and possibly more besides, although both are competing with one another and raising the stakes all the time, just like it was during the 'Browser Wars'.
For example, you can request content from an ISP via a dial-up connection or from an always-on cable modem. This uses the normal HTTP request method. However, you can also request resources from the in-band broadcast video signal. These are done with additional request methods. These will allow you to request an item from a particular carousel. A carousel is a collection of assets that are transmitted in a cyclic manner and are embedded into the digital TV transport stream. Requesting an item from a carousel is no more complicated than requesting it from a web server. When the object is delivered on the next carousel cycle it is displayed by the browser in the normal way. Pages can be constructed with any mixture of in-band or online content.
Carousels can be associated with a particular channel or can be shared by many channels being broadcast on a digital TV multiplex.
This platform works very well in Digital Satellite (DSat), Digital Cable (DCable) and Digital Terrestrial (DTT) systems, although at this time it is becoming very popular on DCable.
The present version of Liberate in wide circulation is 1.1 and it is in the process of being upgraded to 1.2. The upgrade process is accomplished by downloading a new browser core into the set-top box which then updates its persistent Flash ROM.
As the cost/performance ratio improves, boxes will become more capable and support higher level functionality. It is likely that the Flash support for example will receive some considerable attention, because it allows the designers of the program related material to achieve more advanced and animated effects.
Major Cable operators and AOL TV are among the services offering contents that work with the Liberate platform.