Archives For CableCARD


Building the perfect DVR/video-entertainment device is hard, which is why cable or telco TV plus a Netflix or Blockbuster + Movielink service is probably your best bet right now. But lest ye be sitting in your living room bemoaning the state of your set-top set-up, let me offer up a bit of context on why building the perfect box is so hard.

There’s the leased set-top model used by cable operators. In an effort to make those set-tops as cheap and efficient as possible, a lot of constraints are applied. There can’t be too much storage or processing power, too many added features or too much open access for modification that could muck up the service for everyone. Not an ideal situation, but on the other hand, these operators bring DVR to the masses.

There’s the retail model, which is owned by TiVo. People who have TiVo tend to love TiVo, but relatively few people have it because of the price. Plus, there’s the issue of plugging TiVo into your cable or telco network. Either you need a separate set-top from your service provider or you need a CableCARD. CableCARD certification is a serious technical challenge (more than I think most people realize) and it still doesn’t provide access to two-way services like video-on-demand and switched digital video.

Finally there’s the Internet model. All those media extenders that made big news early in the year, and P2P services like Joost (the box here being your computer). Here the problem is both content and bandwidth. Not enough appealing, timely content to keep people happy, and/or not enough bandwidth to keep content flowing efficiently.

So what’s on the horizon? Continue Reading…

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  July 30, 2007

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs.


It’s that time of year again. We’re more than halfway to the holiday shopping season and CES 2008, which means CE companies are starting to panic about what they can get on to store shelves or at least out of production in time to take advantage of the year’s biggest buying season and biggest PR event respectively. Without doing any in-depth research yet, here’s my list of what we might see around Black Friday time:

Retail Moxi DVR – Dave’s already covered this extensively, and I can’t wait to see how Digeo brings its two models to market. What are the price points? Who will sell them? Has Digeo had any problems with CableCARD certification?

Touchscreen iPod/Nano iPhone – The rumor is some iPod/Nano mash-up will come out later this year. I don’t think it will make my X’mas wish list. A touchscreen on a device smaller than the existing iPhone? I’d need tinier thumbs.

Continue Reading…

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  July 6, 2007

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs.

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  June 29, 2007

A periodic roundup of non-iPhone news… from our other blogs:

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  June 15, 2007

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs.

twc.jpgBen Drawbaugh over on EngadgetHD reports that Time Warner Cable will be deploying switched digital video (SDV) to 50% of its markets before the end of 2007. That’s great news in the sense that SDV should free up significant bandwidth. Like analog reclamation, SDV will make it possible to offer more HD content as well as new apps like Time Warner’s Start Over service.

Unfortunately, as Ben points out, SDV is not great news for TiVo Series3 (and potentially stand-alone Moxi) owners. Today’s CableCARDs only permit one-way communication (technically that’s not exactly true, but for all practical purposes it is), which means TiVo customers won’t be able to access switched content, including any new HD channels.

Two-way CableCARDs are coming, but not quickly enough. Despite the fact that cable operators may be getting two-way cards in time for the 7/07 deadline (they need them for VOD services as well as SDV), those cards haven’t been certified for retail devices. Sorry TiVo customers — you’ll have to wait for CableCARD 2.0 and refresh that hardware.

Given the title of this post, you might (correctly) assume that I don’t believe CableCARD PCs matter. Sure there will be a small niche that embraces the technology as a home media center hub, but the average consumer won’t bother overcoming the learning curve and paying the associated premium. It’s nice to hear that CableCARD equipped PCs can be had for as low as $1500, but that number still doesn’t compete with the set-top box market… Not to mention most folks don’t want a PC (that looks like a PC) in their entertainment center and don’t realize they may be able to extend this content to an Xbox 360. And the possibility of bidirectional, M-Card PC functionality doesn’t change the mindset or marketplace.

For several years, my “set-top” box was a HTPC and my living room “TV” was a projector. Maintaining it was a constant source of frustration (and I managed PCs for a living). CableCARDs may add additional channels but with it comes additional complexity. The Average Joe doesn’t have the skills or the budget and won’t be interested. Not to mention, it doesn’t appear that CC support can be added to existing systems or later migrated to new machines.

Having said that, the current crop of set-top decoders/DVRs (computers disguised for the CE marketplace) are in need of GUI and functionality enhancements.