CableLabs: Out with OpenCable, in with tru2way
The new name made its debut today at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, while CableLabs issued a press release that said tru2way would replace the OpenCable Platform in the marketing and branding of the interactive video platform, for consumers and in retail markets.
The new moniker might also be a shot across the bow of the Federal Communications Commission and the Consumer Electronics Association. The latter has proposed its own digital cable ready plus (DCR+) as the technology standard for interactive devices, but the cable industry – along with consumer electronics companies such as TiVo, Samsung and Panasonic, as well as the NCTA – have backed OpenCable, or tru2way, as the technology of choice.
The FCC has pondered adopting a rule that would require the cable industry to support a common standard, but tru2way could be cable’s attempt at showing such a standard is already in place.
“With tru2way, the cable TV industry can quickly claim a strong position in consumers’ minds and lay the groundwork to help drive this emerging market forward,” said In-Stat analyst Gerry Kaufhold. “As cable operators study how consumers use early versions of tru2way applications, they will learn ways to compete effectively against both satellite TV and the telco TV services. If the FCC wanted a truly competitive market for these new services, tru2way certainly paves the way for that kind of battle royale to develop.”
CableLabs will license the brand to cable companies, cable programmers and consumer electronics manufacturers that will deliver, create or build devices to access tru2way applications and services. CableLabs said most cable companies plan to advertise, use and support the tru2way technology. The branding of tru2way devices, such as set-top boxes (STBs) and TVs, by manufacturers will be voluntary.
Cox, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other cable operators are currently in various stages of OpenCable Platform trials and deployments, both of which are slated to pick up more steam this year. According to CableLabs, major cable operators have committed to deploy support for the tru2way platform in service areas covering more than 90 million U.S. homes by the end of 2008.
It’s the second recent name change for the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP). At last year’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, NCTA CEO Kyle McSlarrow joked during a keynote address that the acronym “OCAP” was forbidden at NCTA headquarters because the term “completely drops the ball” in terms of showing what the platform represents. Over the course of last summer, CableLabs threw out OCAP in favor of OpenCable Platform because it said the latter comprises both software and hardware.
OCAP was originally part of the broader OpenCable initiative, which CableLabs launched in 1997 to promote the deployment of interactive services over cable. OCAP consists of a stack of middleware software that resides between applications and the operating system within a consumer electronics device such as a STB or OCAP-compliant TV set. Java-based OpenCable devices can have new information or applications ported to them because of their two-way capabilities, with ETV being an early forerunner of applications for legacy STBs.
For developers, content providers and broadcasters, OCAP holds the promise of “write once, deploy everywhere,” as opposed to writing to various proprietary platforms. Customers not only benefit from the new services and applications, but they will also be able to take their OCAP-devices from one MSO footprint to another when they move.
The technology has been licensed by several dozen application-authoring entities and equipment manufacturers, including Digeo, LG Electronics, Panasonic and Samsung, and by chipmakers Broadcom and Intel.
Comcast and Panasonic also announced today a new portable digital video recorder (P-DVR) that uses the tru2way technology. The P-DVR, which Comcast calls the AnyPlay P-DVR, allows customers to record programming at home and take it with them wherever they go. The P-DVR will be available beginning in early 2009, while Panasonic expects to have a tru2way-enabled HDTV ready sometime this year. (Time Warner Cable has previously conducted a limited trial with OCAP-enabled Samsung TVs.)
The AnyPlay P-DVR sits in a docking station on top of a STB, which also acts as the battery charger. The device features 60GB of digital video recording capacity, an 8.5-inch folding LCD display screen and integrated stereo speakers.
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