Comcast’s Tru2way Offers Way Around Set-Top Box
In the first keynote speech by a cable chief executive at the Consumer Electronics Show, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts announced Tuesday that the company is introducing an open technology platform this year that will allow any developer to create interactive features for cable and let consumers access cable content on a range of consumer devices, without the need for a cable set-top box.
The new platform is called tru2way and is based on work the cable operator has conducted over the last few years in partnership with cable industry research consortium CableLabs.
Tru2way devices from Panasonic, Samsung, LG and Motorola will be available in stores by year end, Mr. Roberts said. That includes, for instance, two new high-definition TV sets from Panasonic that won’t need a set-top box. The cable capabilities will be built into the TVs, Panasonic said.
“When a consumer buys a device built with tru2way, they can plug it in and it will support all two-way cable services—that means no more cable set-top boxes,” Mr. Roberts said. “Second, for hardware and software companies, tru2way means we offer an open platform for innovation.”
If tru2way takes off, the new technology platform could represent a huge leap in technological innovation for the cable industry. Cablers have traditionally lagged in technology development because their set-top boxes are proprietary. Technology firms have had to strike deals with cable operators for new features to be offered to cable customers, a cumbersome process that has slowed innovation in the cable industry.
Mr. Roberts said tru2way can change that. “The age of the closed proprietary set-top box is behind us and the era of an open two-way platform is here,” he said. Software companies now can develop services specifically for the new system. “Even a service like TiVo will work on a tru2way platform.
“The tru2way platform will turn the cable market into a single market,” he added. “Tru2way technology opens cable to innovation by applications developers and consumer electronics companies. This is a totally different business model.”
Comcast and Panasonic also are introducing a device called AnyPlay. It’s about the size of a mini-laptop and works as a portable digital video recorder. That means consumers can take the portable device with them and watch TV and DVR content in any room in the house, on an airplane or in the car.