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Cable has big plans for tru2way

Ben Drawbaugh

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We first heard about tru2way just before CES and at first we were confused, then after checking out all the tru2way HDTVs at CES, we realized it as a way for us access VOD and other interactive services on our non-cable issued HDTVs or TiVo DVRs. But now that we had the chance to sit in a on a few tru2way developers sessions, and walk the floor at this year's Cable Show, we are starting to get the big picture. You see there really wasn't that many mentions of third-party tru2way devices at the show. Instead everyone was more interested in the cable companies deploy schedule for their own tru2way STBs. Developers want to know how to get their applications onto customer's TVs, and cable companies hope to spawn new growth by providing interactive services while at the same time eliminating its dependency on a single STB manufacturer.

There wasn't a booth on the floor that didn't have something to do with tru2way on display. The Weather Channel had interactive weather information, Panasonic was proudly displaying its new tru2way enabled TVs, HD DVR and a portable DVR, and various software companies had everything from games to home automation applications. The only real question that we left with was when? Time Warner Cable started supporting tru2way almost a year ago and today it's supported in 40% of their markets. Comcast is a little further behind, and has only currently deployed what it calls OnRamp, which is a subset of tru2way and is what the Comcast TiVo experience is deployed with. But Comcast does -- optimistically -- expect to have 95% of its market tru2way ready by the end of 2008.

This should be just in time for manufactures like Samsung, LG, and Panasonic to get their consumer tru2way products to market -- which they say will be available by Christmas '08. All this of this sounds great and all, but we're afraid that the cable industry's desire to control tru2way applications will effectively create a walled garden and will keep anything cool from ever making it to market. And while at the same time we're glad that companies like TiVo and Microsoft will have a way to access our cable company's VOD and other interactive services, we still can't help but wish there was a way for us to use our interface of choice instead of being forced to depend on an oligopoly to choose our software.

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