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Tru2way: Epic Fail at Retail

Jeff Baumgartner
1/4/2011
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Three years ago, tru2way had its coming-out party at the International CES as the annual gadgetfest welcomed Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts as the first ever keynoter from the cable crew to grace the CES stage.

It was supposed to mark the start of the retail era for tru2way, the new consumer-facing brand of the OpenCable Platform, a set of "open" CableLabs specs that defines a common headend and software architecture for TVs, set-tops and other types of interactive "hosts." Heck, it even had its own logo.

Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC), a giant of the CE world, placed some big bets, too, by promising to release new tru2way TV sets while it collaborated with Comcast on a range of tru2way boxes, including a portable DVR that never saw the light of day. (See Comcast, Panasonic Unveil Portable DVR .)

Although tru2way will continue to play an important role in leased boxes, it's abundantly clear now that tru2way is a retail failure.

The culprits are many: tru2way failed to evolve beyond cable; consumer demand for tru2way products was nonexistent; the platform had trouble generating support beyond major US MSOs. On top of that, several CE companies balked at tru2way's restrictive licensing terms, certification hurdles, and integration costs (over $200 per device, by most estimates). And, instead of going through all that trouble, most TV manufacturers found it easier to spruce up their products with over-the-top (OTT) video strategies that were largely under their control, and not the cable industry's.

The partnerships that came out of tru2way efforts did help cable squelch a competing effort called DCR+. But now, the cable industry must get ready to face a possibly more problematic (and expensive) challenge with the emergence of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's ambitious "AllVid" initiative. (See All About the FCC's AllVid.)

Here's a look back at the more significant tru2ways hits and misses over the last three years, along with a predictions on what to expect at this week's CES:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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