Video services

Sony HD-PC Slots in CableCARD

Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) has introduced a new VAIO-branded PC that can output and record digital cable video channels, including premium high-definition fare, with the addition of a cable operator-supplied CableCARD.

Sony is billing the new PC, the VAIO LT HD PC/TV, as a "computer entertainment center." [Ed. note: Arguably, a Fry's store in Las Vegas could be called the same thing.] Offered as a series of models, configurations support either standard-definition video or standard- and high-definition. The HD version comes equipped with a Blu-ray Disc optical drive.

In cable terms, the PC serves as an OpenCable Unidirectional Receiver (OCUR). The supplied CableCARD, a removable module, holds the keys that authorize digital cable services, including premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, and Starz. The CableCARD is also central to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ban on integrated security set-tops, which went into effect July 1, 2007. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.)

Some earlier reviews of OCUR-based PCs, particularly Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Media Center PCs, have been less than complimentary, with users citing troubles getting the CableCARD component installed and configured correctly. (See OCUR Gets Low Marks.)

But, because the device is inherently one-way, the PC will not support interactive cable services, such as video-on-demand (VOD). The cable industry and supporting vendors, however, are starting work on an interactive version. CableLabs has not specified the effort or given it an official name, but Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD) and Vividlogic were demonstrating something called the Bidirectional OpenCable Receiver (BOCR) in May at The Cable Show. (See Cable Developing Two-Way PCTV Play .)

Sony's CableCARD-capable PC series features a 22-inch widescreen LCD display, 1.3 megapixel camera, 2 gigabytes of RAM, and a hard drive that can store recorded television shows.

Sony said the LT standard model will start at $1,900 each. The hi-def version will sell for around $2,900.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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