tru2way at The Cable Show


After a pretty big splash at CES 2008, there’s been relatively little movement on the tru2way retail front (other than a limited release of Panasonic’s tru2way-capable HDTVs in Comcast’s Chicago and Denver markets last fall). As a refresher, tru2way is the evolution of OCAP and designed to provide a common framework (middleware) for MSOs, their partners, and retail manufacturers alike to efficiently develop and deploy cable products.

From a general consumer’s standpoint, it’s the retail angle that makes tru2way interesting. While the current crop of retail CableCARD devices enable access to digital cable tuning, any services that require two-way communication, such as video-on-demand and switched digital video (SDV) access, has been out of reach. Enter tru2way. It’s best to think of CableCARD as an authentication mechanism (separable security hardware) and tru2way as an operating system that interfaces with the cable company mothership (head end).

In fact, the current implementation essentially channels the cable company interface. Walking around The Cable Show, all sorts of tru2way hardware was running the same guides/interfaces. However, I did see a few DVRs with compelling applications riding shotgun… including Motorola’s Pandora app and Intel/Samsung with Yahoo’s Widget bar.


So what’s holding up tru2way deployment? The industry memorandum of understanding (MOU) set July 1, 2009 as the date that cable operators would have the back-end support in place. And despite millions of tru2way-capable homes and cable-provided set-top boxes, there’s no way they’re going to hit 100%. Not even close. Which isn’t a huge deal for the MSOs. But it’s the sort of thing that’ll keep a small company like TiVo in a holding pattern. Additionally, why would TiVo or Moxi even want a cable company guide/interface? They’ve invested years developing their own custom experiences. Earlier, there had been talks of  tru2way specs that permit custom interfaces that support two-way services and utilize cable-co data. Although, I haven’t heard anything in months regarding the status of that initiative.

While I shot a lot of pics (below), very few of these are retail products. In fact, we now hear 2010 will be the big year. Which is about when I expect tru2way2 to derail the whole thing. ;)

Click to enlarge:

8 thoughts on “tru2way at The Cable Show”

  1. To clear up a common misconception, tru2way is not the evolution of the CableCARD. tru2way devices require CableCARDs too. They just happen to support that two-way communication back to the cable company.

  2. Wow, it really looks promising. Especially once the retail market gets down, perhaps one can purchase the DVR of their dreams (think 1TB or so storage, home networking/media place shifting, etc), and it should work 100% with the cable company, including VOD.

    I’m really interested to see more of the UI’s that are in development. I recognize the Tru2Way version of I-Guide there, which surprisingly looks like the current I-Guide, just skinned with a more modern fascia. While looks like a start, it still doesn’t do 16:9 or higher resolution (think 7+ lines by 2+ hours in the grid).

    The Passport Tru2Way looks like a real winner, and I love the thought of Pandora and Yahoo Widgets gracing my TV.

    I like to stay in an connected world where information is at my fingertips. If I’m at the computer, great, if I’m on a subway, fine (I-Phone takes care of that), but if I’m in front of the TV, there’s currently something missing.

    Paying so much for cable TV, I wish I had a better experience. Think advanced social features and UI of Boxee plus content grabbing (Internet Video / Music / Home Networking integration) plus the normal DVR+TV Grid guide.

    Were in an evolving time right now and I can’t wait to see what the big MSO’s do with (or don’t do with) the technology. The biggest caveat may be wedging all of this code in the millions of legacy hardware out there. If I have to trade in my DCH DVR for a DCX or Panasonic DVR, I’d GLADLY do so for these enhancements.

  3. I’d think of the guide, tru2way, and features/functionality as three separate entities which may or may not move in lockstep. While the tru2way platform supports all sorts of apps, on MSO-deployed hardware, they will choose which are active/installed. My big question, for these Internet apps, is which path(s) they choose for connectivity. Will the box talk directly to the ‘net, or will it all be relayed to the headend and then out? One of the DVRs (forget which) had a DOCSIS 3.0 modem builtin.

  4. Yeah good points. I do know that even current DVR’s from the DCT-6412 to the DCH-3416 have DOCSIS 2.0 modems built in and are ready for DSG(Docsis Set Top Gateway).

    I’ll welcome more interactivity and applications with open arms, whether it works on my current box, or I make a trip out to Comcast to get an updated box.

    Coming full circle here, remember Comcast’s Mark Hess- said “Comcast has to look at improving navigation with tru2way. Improving the user interface is “job 1″ for us.” I’m glad they are finally making that realization.

  5. This situation with tru2way sounds very similar to the current state of the cellphone industry, where the carrier determines which features are available on the handset, bundles applications tied to their proprietary services, and blocks applications (such as Skype) which pose a threat to their revenue.

    Now we can look forward to the TiVo of the future with the cable company-approved user interface. Isn’t that the reason we bought TiVos rather than the cable company DVR in the first place?

    All of this makes me look forward to the day when online video distribution is truly mainstream.

  6. Great analogy, Michael. To extend it further, think of a possible retail tru2way as an unlocked cellphone with a variety of features and not locked to a certain provider. If CableLabs allows customer interfaces to cable-co guide data and VOD libraries, it could work out OK… but who knows when. I think it’s going to be TiVo or Moxi and “tuning adapters” for awhile…

  7. I’m still a little fuzzy on how retail boxes will work with Tru2Way…is each “function” of a Tru2Way system partitioned out, so for instance, guide functionality is seperate from on-demand functionality and DVR functionality? So, a TiVo with t2w would be a TiVo, until it accessed on-demant content, and would switch over to the cable co interface?

  8. Dave, I think an “unlocked” tru2way device could work out OK, just as you do. But just as the cellphone industry wishes that unlocked phones didn’t exist, I think the cable industry is simiarly trying to discourage “unlocked” tru2way devices from makers like TiVo and Moxi.

    I definitely agree with you that TiVo/Moxi with the “tuning adapter” is going to be the most viable choice for a while.

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