PoV on TV Application Layer from BBC
TAL is an abstract layer for TV applications that
enables the deployment of single co...
We developed a sample TAL application that
enables passcode protected video consumption
from Dropbox and Youtube on SMART ...
TAL is in its nascent stages. The current set of
features and functionality is good enough to
create a good TV application...
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PoV on TV Application Layer


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At Mindtree, we evaluate open source technologies and frameworks with the intent of enabling our customers to provide differentiated services to their customers, that keep them ahead of the game. We present our points of view on TV application layer, an open source framework from BBC.

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PoV on TV Application Layer

  1. 1. PoV on TV Application Layer from BBC TAL is an abstract layer for TV applications that enables the deployment of single code base across many connected SMART TVs. Most of the connected TV devices have browser built upon WebKit or Opera, there can be variations in the way the devices perform media playback, animation, networking, logging, JSON parsing, persistent storage, and remote control key codes. TAL provides abstraction layer for the above. Much of the development can be done using traditional desktop browser, focusing on building the desired features, without worrying about TV compatibility too much. The applications built using TAL will require tuning as the differences in performance are due to device specification, and variances in the browser. Once the TAL application is built, one may need the help of TV packaging tool to enable access to the viewers from TV application store. Why TAL? TAL opens up a possibility of writing TV application once that will run on connected TVs from different manufacturers with little or no modification, there by opening up a lot monetization opportunity for the adopters and maximize the benefits. TAL provides readymade widgets to build application interface. It is possible to use out of the box or extend them. List of the widgets as follows...  Widget  Container  Component  ComponentContainer  Label  Image  List  ListItem  HorizontalList  VerticalList  Grid  HorizontalCarousel  Media  HorizontalProgress  HorizontalSlider  ScrubBar  Keyboard  TextPager TAL framework Framework provides an abstracted notion of storage, both at session level and persistence level. Common API allows maintaining a key- object store. Storage limitations are induced by the device, while framework does not present enforcement on the limit. Framework allows asynchronous network requests including cross-domain requests. TAL also provides the flexibility to launch another application from existing, exit the application, or return to main application. The framework is able to achieve abstraction through configurations. Each file represents a device or family of similar devices. Device configuration consists of a set of default values required by TAL and an application file that can override the defaults to include additional properties required to an application. TAL framework allows the developers to define new component, and manage the lifecycle programmatically. The framework implements its own event system and isolates event differences across devices. The framework enables developers to target different screen resolutions. Evaluation
  2. 2. We developed a sample TAL application that enables passcode protected video consumption from Dropbox and Youtube on SMART TV. We listed our observations and analysis during the application development to establish a point of view on TAL framework. We evaluated TAL framework on the following parameters, provided our scores in a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best.  Source code completeness  Ease of learning  Ease of customization/extension  Ease of app deployment  Community support and following Source code completeness TAL is licensed under dual licensing terms. TAL is available under Apache license and BBC can make TAL available under proprietary license. Code under Apache license v2.0 makes it business friendly for adoption. BBC has done a good job in making the source code available in various forms. GitHub, Bundled in Tar and Zip Code is readable and has good documentation. A good developer with the understanding of JavaScript will be able to understand the framework. Score: 5 Ease of learning We at Mindtree have evaluated many open source frameworks in the context of business solution implementation. While open source software/framework provide the cost advantages, we often felt that the developers would find the adoption difficult because of non- availability of documentation, non-availability of examples, and complexity involved in configuration, complexity of setting up the development environment and so on. In case of TAL, the framework configuration was fairly simple. The availability of example applications and documentation helped the learning activity. We shall conclude that developing TAL based application is not a complex undertaking. Score: 3.5 Ease of customization/extension It is imperative that the framework needs to be extended to accommodate desired business needs. Customization and/or extension of framework is possible when the framework design accounts such future requirements. The framework is fairly flexible, and driven by the configurations. The framework abstracts the common concerns of networking, storage, new component building, and new TV device configurations. As a part of the evaluation activity, we have developed a custom component that loads youtube player in Samsung SmartTV. Score: 4 Ease of app deployment Building the TAL based application is fairly simple. However, to deploy this application in TV, and make it available in its application store, we need to make use of TV’s packaging tool. We used Samsung TV application development environment to package TAL application and made it available in application hub. There will be packaging effort required to make the application available on different manufacturer. We identify this as one of the improvement areas where TAL framework can offer ready packaging. Score: 3 Community support and following
  3. 3. TAL is in its nascent stages. The current set of features and functionality is good enough to create a good TV application. As TAL is not the uniform standard which all TV device manufacturers consider supporting it, the framework requires a strong community support and following, which is not a scoring point now. With BBC backing up the project, we believe TAL will have good community following in the near future. Score: 2 Analysis at a glance Our views There is no standard across TV manufacturers to create TV application that works across different connected TVs. TAL provides much needed abstract layer aiding the TV application developers. TAL framework also enables developers to create new components. TAL framework needs to mature with more features and functionality, preferably with an IDE that aids rapid TV application development. Since, TAL is open source software; only a strong community support will make it popular, forcing TV manufacturers to adopt TAL. Developers will enjoy good monetization capability by writing TV application in TAL once, and deploy in multiple TV devices. References http://fmtvp.github.io/tal/getting- started/introducing-tal.html Proof of Concept development exercise