A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs.
Are you aware of the 2009 deadline for transitioning everyone over to digital television? Of course you are. Which means you can now feel superior to more than 60% of Americans according to a study cited by John Lawson, President and CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS).
The Digital TV panel at the CEA Washington Forum brought together some unlikely fellows working toward a common goal of getting consumers educated about the DTV transition. While the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) are on opposite sides of the fence on some issues (like, say, CableCARD), their CEOs, Gary Shapiro and Kyle McSlarrow, certainly agreed that DTV requires significant cooperation over the next couple of years. Shapiro went so far as to compare the transition to the move from horse and buggy to automobile. (Yeah, not sure I agree with that, but maybe true in the long term.)
Lawson meanwhile emphasized the benefits coming out of DTV, including specifically the availability of new content. Apparently public television is doing a lot more with multicasting than I knew, including adding three new 24/7 channels – a Spanish channel, a “How-To” channel and a public affairs channel.
Looks like we’re getting close now…
PC Mag got their hands on a pre-release Dell coupled with two of those ATI CableCARD decoders I spotted at CES (and a Blu-ray drive). Though the article is extensive (we’re talking screens and screens), I didn’t see much on how CableCARD content is protected. The author was able to view HD content streamed to his Xbox 360, but no word if/how we can access the raw recordings. I’ll go out on a limb here (ha!) and say they’re locked down.
There was no mention of price, though it can’t be cheap – which brings me to…
Niveus’ imminent $1500 dual CableCARD decoder. While it’s certainly sleeker than the ATI solution (x2), I have to agree that it’s “insanely expensive” – realizing one still must buy a paired PC. Ouch. Maybe that $800 (MSRP) TiVo Series3 isn’t as expensive as we thought?
(Thanks Glenn and Kevin!)
Since Engadget and PVRWire mentioned the new Motorola box (DCH-3416) this weekend, I thought I’d chime in with a bit more info. This HD DVR was announced at CES, and in fact Moto had quite a few on display (pic above).
First, it looks much sharper, more modern than the 6412 (and others). Second, the reason this is on the way to a cableco (or telco) near you is the FCC’s 7/07 seperable security requirement: This box supports CableCARD, both M-Card and CC 1.0. Mari tells me it contains a 160GB hard drive and is OCAP-capable.
But is it TiVo capable? TiVo believes their Java-based software can easily port to other platforms. While it’s not indicative of anything, I did observe TiVo briefing a group of Moto folks in Vegas. Hmm… or was Moto briefing TiVo.
In a relationship announced nearly two years ago, the Comcast TiVo is just about here and on public display at CES. (Rumor has it, they showed back-room demos for VIPs at the 2006 CES.) There were at least three Motorola 6412 units running TiVo software in the booth. Not only did I poke around on them, I had the chance to sit down privately with David Sanford, VP of Product Management in the Service Provider group — one of the guys behind this custom build. In addition to the obvious functionality questions, I was particularly interested in learning of the deployment mechanics and the technologies in play.
The Comcast-Moto-TiVo is already in trials, and deployment is slated to begin this Spring. The roll-out will be managed by Comcast — they set the schedule within their various markets. (As in: not all regions are likely to get the TiVo option simultaneously.) While there are no details on monthly pricing yet (which I assume could vary by market), David tells me Comcast really wants to get this product out there and is planning to charge only a “modest fee.” (I’ll take a stab and guess a $5 – $10 increase over current DVR rental fees would cover licensing and allow Comcast to make a few bucks without sticker shocking customers.)
So here’s how it works… You let Comcast know you want to upgrade your DVR to TiVo, they flip a switch, and your current Motorola box (6412 or 3412) downloads the software. Reboot, and voilà you have TiVo — with prior settings and recordings preserved and no truck roll required. Your current crappy Comcast remote will control the TiVo software, but as part of the upgrade Comcast will mail you a custom Comcast TiVo remote (with new OnDemand, A, B, C, and D buttons).
No love for Comcast from the FCC. The regulatory agency has decided not to grant Comcast’s request for a waiver to continue offering a low-cost, non-CableCARD set-top past the July 1st 2007 deadline. Instead, Comcast must ship only CableCARD-compliant set-tops starting in the second half of the year.
I had the pleasure this week of listening in on a CES panel that included Comcast’s VP of digital development, James Henderson. When CableCARD came up, there was some distinct grumbling from Mr. Henderson, who nonetheless attempted to be diplomatic. While Mr. Henderson agreed that separable security is good for innovation in the long run (indeed cable companies wanted this once upon a time), in the short term he believes it will hamper what cable can introduce into the home.
No word yet on Verizon’s request for a waiver.
There’s a good article on the FCC ruling in xchange online. However, the reporter there argues that cable companies are protesting CableCARD because they stand to lose set-top leasing revenues if consumers buy CableCARD devices at retail. I think the bigger issue at the moment is the fact that operators have to spend more to put CableCARD-compliant set-tops in consumer homes.
I got to touch this ATI box which provides add-on CableCARD functionality, presumably for Vista PCs. Unfortunately, there was no one around to speak with about it… Which is probably OK, since the majority of folks I’ve had questions for have been unable to address the more technical stuff. (Frustrating!)
The device is about the size of a hard cover novel and has jacks on both the top (?) and back. The translucent plastic piece sticking up can be slid down and closed, but I kept it raised to photograph the CableCARD slot. The box was pretty light, but I’m not sure if it’s real or just a display model. If I ever find their booth again, I’ll try to get more info.