S-A, Motorola & Kaleida form cable-box venture

Scientific-Atlanta, Motorola Corp. and Kalieda Labs are teaming up to put a computer in the next generation of cable TV set-top boxes.

At the National Cable TV Assn. conference in San Francisco on Sunday, the three companies announced a joint venture that could dramatically change the capabilities of the cable network.

The core of the box will be Motorola’s latest computer chip, the Power PC, which it is developing with IBM Corp. and Apple Computer Inc. The microprocessor will be the basis for a new generation of high-speed computers for both hardware makers next year.

New operating system

Kalieda, which is also a joint venture between IBM and Apple, is hard at work on a new operating system, ScriptX, aimed at speeding development of multimedia software. The new box should be available in mid-1994 at a price comparable to today’s units, which are running around $ 300.

According to Kalieda’s chairman, Nat Goldhaber, he approached Scientific-Atlanta, the No. 2 maker of set-top boxes, and Motorola about using his software several months ago. Soon after, the three had decided to work together.

Computer capabilities

By combining the power of the Power PC chip with Kalieda’s software, the new set-top box will mimic the capabilities of a computer. It will likely have a port on the back to plug in so-called peripherals, such as a CD-ROM player for videogames, or a keyboard.

“You’ll have the ability to create startlingly real virtual reality worlds, to interact with others in your neighborhood or around the world,” said Goldhaber. “That becomes possible with this much horsepower.”

The box will also handle the decompression of digital TV signals and the traffic for interactive shopping or other transactions.

Goldhaber noted that all three companies could work with other partners on similar projects.