Comcast, NDS Connect on Tru2way
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s tru2way plans are perking up again, with the MSO announcing Monday that it has hired NDS Ltd. to serve as the "prime integrator" of its tru2way software project. Comcast also revealed today that it will center that work on a CableLabs "Reference Implementation" (RI) tru2way stack that the cable R&D house released last June. (See Is Tru2way Ready to Grow Up? , CableLabs Tru2way RI Exits Beta, and CableLabs: 'Hundreds' Have Downloaded Tru2way Reference Stack.)
Under the deal with NDS, the vendor is on board to optimize the RI stack and to help port apps to tru2way-based boxes and other video devices that end up using the platform. NDS is also developing an RI testing tool to ensure that the boxes conform with the tru2way stack. Those moves, the companies hope, will allow Comcast to run those same apps and services across myriad box models. (See Comcast Picks NDS for Tru2way.)
Ideally, that added flexibility should give Comcast more freedom to use boxes from suppliers outside the traditional "duopoly" of Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).
That could open the door for Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) , Pace plc , EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS), Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH; NYSE: TCH), Funai Electric Co. Ltd. (OTC: FUAIY)., and other vendors that are developing tru2way boxes. TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), meanwhile, is developing a tru2way-based version of its navigation system for Comcast. (See Funai Makes Tru2way Play , EchoStar Slings Its First Tru2way Set-Top, ADB Develops Tru2way 'Set-Back', Tru2way 'Phantom' Box Is a DVR Lightweight , and TiVo Building tru2way Version of New Interface.)
Tru2way also has some retail aspirations, but, so far, its support has been limited to just three Comcast markets (Denver, Chicago, and Atlanta), and consumers there will be hard-pressed to find any tru2way-certified TVs on retail shelves. (See Denver, Chicago First to Get Tru2way TVs and Tru2Way in Atlanta.)
That Comcast is going with the CableLabs tru2way RI is not a huge surprise. After all, a good chunk of it is based on the tru2way stack developed by OCAP Development LLC (ODL), a joint venture of Comcast and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC).
Comcast says it's "committed to the CableLabs RI," but has not identified a specific stack it will deploy. However, if it goes with the ODL's version, as one industry source suggests to Light Reading Cable, the decision won't be great news for such tru2way middleware vendors as Cisco, enableTV Inc. , Alticast Corp. , Osmosys SA , or SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC), which recently got into that market via its buy of VividLogic. Alticast, however, is trying to get its stack in the door at Comcast, a source says. (See SeaChange Snags VividLogic for $12M.)
By the same token, the news is obviously good for NDS, which is rapidly becoming a tru2way implementer of choice among larger MSOs. NDS secured the same role at Cox Communications Inc. , which is using a tru2way-based guide as the centerpiece of a new premium video package. Initially, Cox is fueling that with Cisco boxes and Cisco's "Axiom" tru2way middleware stack. (See Cox Guides Tru2way Forward and Cox, NDS Team on Tru2way .)
Comcast hasn't said when or where its new tru2way boxes and services will show up first, though its Denver, Chicago, and Atlanta markets have the most experience with it, as they are already supporting tru2way-certified HDTV sets from Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC).
A company spokeswoman says Comcast plans to launch tru2way-based services and support tru2way boxes and other devices "throughout 2010."
Comcast revealed in a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing last week that almost 90 percent of its headends have been upgraded for tru2way. (See Comcast Closing Tru2way Gap .)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable