Monday, April 27, 2009

The Long, Slow Liberation Of The Cable Set-Top Box

Tru2way, formerly OCAP, was designed to enable other consumer electronics to interface with cable. But to date, we have yet to break free from the cable box if we want to enjoy our digital TV channels and interactive choices like the interactive guide and VOD. The cover story seems to indicate that with Tru2way, cable companies are no longer tied to Motorola or SA for cable boxes, open to work with more partners. More competition, lower costs, more innovation.

So what is taking so long and why do cable companies still want to buy and lease cable box devices to consumers. Why can't we as consumers determine which box we want to use. Why can't I buy an HD set with a cablecard reader that gives me all the functionality inside my TV set. Or allow me to buy the DVR of my choice, Tivo or another provider, to access all the features on cable. The article contends that Tru2way will let us breakfree, but frankly there doesn't seem to be anything to be excited about.

Rather, TV manufacturers are designing TV sets that can access the web directly, creating an interactive experience WITHOUT cable. Cable and the set top box are simply speaking, "a day late, and a dollar short" The cable box is a brick that most consumers would do without if they could. It minimizes the TV set, not enhances it. Tru2way and OCAP has been discussed for quite a while, but it hasn't made any impact yet. How quickly will the consumer see opportunity; I suspect it will happen around cable and the set top box, and not because of it.