Product Spotlight: Passport navigation software suite

Feb 26, 2001  •  Post A Comment

What it is: Software designed to provide digital set-top boxes with an interactive program guide, a channel banner (for program descriptions and itineraries), virtual channels, an advanced parental control and other offerings. Its initial version (1.0) debuted in April 1999; version 2.1 has been rolling out for the past three to four months; version 3.0, announced at last year’s Western Cable Show, is now being tested. In addition to being deployed on Pioneer set-top boxes, Passport runs on Scientific-Atlanta’s Explorer 2000 and 2100 boxes and is slated for the Explorer 6000 and 8000 models. A commercial launch in Motorola’s DCT2000 is expected in the next three months.
Provider: Pioneer.
Customers: “We have one major customer, Time Warner Cable-27 of their systems have launched Passport 2.1, representing 1.3 million digital set-top boxes,” said Haig Krakirian, vice president of software engineering for Pioneer. “It’s mostly clustered: we have most of North Carolina, Southern California, Manhattan [about 200,000 of the 1 million units], the Orlando [Fla.] system [150,000 of the 1 million units] and Kansas City.” Blue Ridge Communications, a multiple system operator in Pennsylvania with about 180,000 subscribers, also uses Passport.
Fast and without “feature-itis”: “We’re seeing that the competition is bogged down with `feature-itis’: it’s an infectious disease-adding more and more features without concentrating on a consistent interface,” Mr. Krakirian said. “No one thinks through how to get in and out of a feature.
“Our design is very flat-it doesn’t drill down into lots of menus,” he noted. “There’s an immediate reaction after you press a button. People are accustomed to a fraction-of-a-second channel changing. Ours comes up immediately. It’s been a challenge technically to make sure this is always the case as the industry extends their systems.”