CableLabs: 'Hundreds' Have Downloaded Tru2way Reference Stack
"We're into the hundreds; we haven't hit the thousands yet," says Phil Bender, the senior manager of OpenCable vendor relations at CableLabs. "Our claim to fame is that [tru2way RI downloaders] are coming from every continent except Antarctica."
The RI, which runs on PCs (rather than much more expensive cable headends), aims to stabilize the tru2way platform, stoke its retail potential, and offer a common baseline for application developers to write to. CableLabs offers the RI and tru2way source code for free under GNU Public License (GPL) Version 2, allowing developers to make their own contributions. CableLabs also makes a commercial license available at no charge. (See Tru2way Enters 'Open' Era and Is Tru2way Ready to Grow Up? .)
CableLabs isn't offering a list of who has downloaded the RI so far, but Bender says it's been a mix of MSOs, well-known software developers, and independent entrepreneurs that hope to develop applications for the still-budding tru2way platform, which is rooted in Java. The RI is also coming along as some cable MSOs begin to look to Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) Flash as a possible extension to tru2way. (See Adobe: Tru2way Won't Shackle Flash , Can Flash & Tru2way Coexist? , and Comcast Offers Glimpse of Flash Strategy )
But Bender says the vast majority of the RI downloads -- about 95 percent -- are opting for the open source model, with some already contributing changes and patches to the middleware. The few that are loading up the commercial license option can implement the RI in a final product, but don't contribute anything new (or possibly proprietary) to the tru2way code.
Developers that use the RI will next have to find a way to get MSOs to buy and/or deploy their tru2way applications. CableLabs, meanwhile, is considering creating a standard, uniform certification process for tru2way applications, but those details haven't been finalized, Bender says.
Streamlining tru2way testing
The RI effort is just one of those underway that's looking to streamline the development and testing process for tru2way products. (See CableLabs Streamlines Tru2way Testing.)
To help lower the economic barriers for tru2way set-top and TV makers, CableLabs has gotten rid of a license fee (it was less than $20,000, we're told) that vendors once had to foot just to gain access to a suite of test tools. CableLabs has also created a lab setting that lets device makers test their products against multiple interactive program guides (IPGs). So far, CableLabs has that set up for the Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) guides, and is just finishing up a project that will allow set-top makers to test against Cox Communications Inc. 's new tru2way-based IPG. (See Cox Gives Guide Guidance .)
The aim there, Bender says, is to help tru2way device makers cut down on the costs and logistics required to get tru2way products certified.
At this point, only a handful of products that have won tru2way certification, which not only ensures interoperability but gives the green light for retail distribution.
Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC) has two tru2way TVs certified, with Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) the first to get the CableLabs stamp for a set-top box. Bender says set-tops from Samsung Corp. have also achieved tru2way certification. [Ed note: We've asked Samsung to confirm the models, but the company already has already shipped more than 300,000 tru2way-based boxes to Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks .] (See Cable's 'Dream Set-Top' .)
UPDATE: Samsung has not obtained CableLabs tru2way certification for a set-top box (at least not yet). But we are reminded that at least four Samsung LCD TVs have gained the tru2way stamp, though none of those are presently offered at retail.
CableLabs has one certification test wave left for 2009, with eight planned for 2010. The next CableLabs tru2way and enhanced television interop is slated to take place the week of Oct. 5.
The vast majority of tru2way boxes are sold directly to MSOs, leaving some to wonder when (or if) the platform will truly create an open market for retail-ready, interactive cable boxes and digital TVs. So far, cable's limited tru2way retail efforts have been relegated to three Comcast markets -- Denver, Atlanta, and Chicago -- and it's unlikely that much more substantive action will happen until the 2010 holiday season. (See Tru2way's Retail Forecast: Cloudy , CEA Seeks CableCARD Review , Tru2Way in Atlanta, and Denver, Chicago First to Get Tru2way TVs.)
And it will be difficult for a retail effort to take off until the nation's largest operators have their systems outfitted for tru2way. Six major MSOs linked to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) originally negotiated with Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) are still preparing their headends for tru2way after missing an original July 1, 2009 deadline. (See MSOs to Miss Tru2way Date and Revealed: The Tru2way MOU.)
But once those deployments are complete, that will give domestic cable and its retail partners a tru2way footprint representing 80 percent of all U.S. cable subs, and about 105 million homes passed.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News
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