Light Reading

tru2Way Tallies Two More

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
7/28/2008
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Mark Cuban may think tru2way needs to open up a bit more, but at least two more consumer electronics companies are quite alright with that memorandum of understanding (MOU) originally negotiated and agreed to by Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) and the top six incumbent U.S. cable operators. (See Sony Supports tru2way.)

LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) and Funai Electric Co. Ltd. (OTC: FUAIY) have become the latest to sign the MOU, which outlines binding commitments for operators to roll out tru2way. The latest additions also dump a bit more sand on the seemingly lifeless body of DCR+. (See Two-Way Battle Reaches FCC.)

The tru2way effort involves establishing a common footprint for interactive digital cable services and cultivating a retail market for tru2way-powered set-tops and TVs. It was created for cable but is starting to be pushed on telcos as well. (See Telcos: Climb Aboard the Tru2way Train.)

In addition to tru2way's six founding MSOs, the list of MOU signatories includes eight consumer electronics firms and other technology vendors. (See More Firms Go the Way of Tru2way.)

Table 1: tru2way Signators*

 MSOs   CE companies/technology vendors  
Bright House Networks Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB)
Cablevision Systems Corp. Digeo Inc.
Charter Communications Funai
Comcast Corp. Intel Corp.
Cox Communications LG Electronics
Time Warner Cable Panasonic
Samsung
Sony
Source: CableLabs.
* As of July 28, 2008.




The addition of LG is certainly no surprise. It had earlier signed the OpenCable Application Platform and CableCARD Host Interface License Agreement (Chila) accords, and had already stated that it was evaluating a new, streamlined version of the tru2way license that combines those two elements. (See tru2way Goes Retail.) Although LG's tru2way activity was rather muted at The Cable Show in May, the consumer electronics giant did demonstrate a tru2way-powered, 42-inch LCD TV prototype at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

LG's official retail introduction of tru2way-based hi-def TV products will begin in 2009 to coincide with cable's broader rollout of the technology, LG spokesman John Taylor says, but he notes that it's "premature" to disclose details such as screen sizes.

Industry insiders familiar with the company's plans say LG is considering TVs with on-board digital video-recording capabilities.

Funai, which markets consumer electronics in the U.S. under the brand names of Philips, Magnavox, Sylvania, and Emerson, is a relative newcomer to the tru2way arena. This year marked the first time Funai exhibited products at The Cable Show. The company has announced plans to introduce two versions of tru2way set-tops -- one for sale through retail channels, and another for direct distribution through cable operators -- by mid-2009. Funai hasn’t released all the specs of those boxes, but has noted that the first two will feature digital video recording and home networking capabilities and use middleware from Vividlogic .

Funai's other U.S. cable ambitions include a home-mountable digital-to-analog residential gateway based on silicon from BroadLogic Network Technologies Inc. . (See DTAs on Parade .)

Here's what LG and Funai are signing onto: The MOU says that by July 1, 2009, the founding MSOs must provide network support for tru2way middleware and support tru2way in the headends serving all digital cable systems. Charter Communications Inc. , the exception, has until July 1, 2010.

The MSOs have also agreed to include the middleware component of the tru2way platform in 20 percent of new "interactive navigation devices" (set-tops) they purchase after July 1, 2009. (See Revealed: The Tru2way MOU.)

Although tru2way TVs will be capable of feeding in digital cable services without need for a separate set top, standalone set tops are expected to make up the bulk of the early gear based on the tru2way platform. (See The Death of the Set-Top Box? )

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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