Sun Microsystems has established a Centre of Excellence at Wollongong University to develop equipment and services supporting the rollout of digital media in Australia.
The centre will be available to both OEMs and service providers such as television networks to develop and test prototype products and programming.
It will also act as a complementary facility to the Sun iForce Centre located in North Sydney, which has been used to develop interactive TV (iTV) programming for SBS, according to Sun Microsystems national education industry manager Andrew Boulus.
“This centre will enhance the current digital capabilities of the iForce Centre and provide a longer term research and development focus in digital media in Australia,” Boulus said.
While the centre has been equipped with an International Academic Grant from Sun, it is not necessary for products and services to be developed on Sun architectures to be prototyped or tested at the centre, according to Digital Media Centre associate director Dr Lori Lockyer.
“We have to be ready to apply digital technologies to any environment and across a number of platforms, of which Sun is one of,” Lockyer said.
“OEMs can develop their own equipment and content externally and then use the centre as a test facility but it will also be used to build the actual prototypes.”
SBS is currently finetuning an iTV application that will allow viewers to post comments on news stories in a moderated forum in which other viewers and interests can read them and respond.
Speaking at the opening, Communications and IT minister Senator Richard Alston predicted that interactivity will be the killer application that drives digital media takeup in Australia.
“The challenge for broadcasters and OEMs is to make interactivity relevant and easy-to-use,” Alston said.
“Next-generation interactive set-top boxes will be the key driver, as will cheaper or free access to digital set-top boxes for viewers.”
Alston said the government did not expect to provide any direct financial assistance to the centre to promote the takeup of high-definition TV in Australia.