My new pals at the NCTA recently briefed me that Comcast was nearing launch of tru2way in select markets in conjunction with the release of tru2way-capable Panasonic televisions. And, now that the release has hit the wires, I can break my silence. Comcast head-ends in Denver and Chicago are providing tru2way services to retail devices – initially, to new Panasonic plasmas available later this month. Unlike the first generation of one-way retail CableCARD devices, the tru2way platform enables bidirectional communication with the cable company – taking on their interface, offering VOD, and handling switched programming. Panasonic’s initial lineup doesn’t include DVR capabilities, though TWICE indicates recording “functionality is […] in the planning stages for future […] models.”
As MZ notes, the major cable-cos intend to fully deploy tru2way nationwide by next summer. However, this is a gentleman’s agreement and not a mandate. Meaning, I doubt it’ll roll out exactly as pitched. Leaving a smaller company with limited resources like TiVo waiting and watching from the sidelines. Though, the biggest challenge the cable industry and their CE partners will face is in educating customers. (We can all probably agree that consumer-initiated CableCARD adoption has been “abysmal.”) Having said that, I do have high hopes for tru2way and I give Panasonic credit for getting on-board early – manufacturing sets to (initially) sell in just two markets is unheard of.
Panasonic’s first tru2way enabled VIERA Plasma HDTVs will be offered in 42-inch class and 50-inch class sizes with integrated tru2way cable receiver capability within the set’s chassis. The TH-42PZ80Q and TH-50PZ80Q will be extensions of Panasonic’s critically acclaimed VIERA PZ80 series of 1080p Plasma HDTVs. The TH-42PZ80Q will have an SRP of $1,599.95 and the TH-50PZ80Q will have an SRP of $2,299.95. These tru2way HDTVs will allow consumers to access all digital cable services such as electronic program guides and the full range of interactive and video-on-demand programming – all accessible directly via the television’s remote control – without the costs or clutter associated with a traditional external cable set-top box. The tru2way VIERA HDTVs will be available in the Chicago area at Abt Electronics in Glenview and at Circuit City locations and at Ultimate Electronics and Circuit City stores in the Denver area.