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: