Tru2way: Remote Chances

9:45 AM -- LAS VEGAS -- 2009 International CES -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC) inked a partnership this week that all but makes HDMI-CEC a quasi-standard for next-gen cable digital set-tops. However, the technology could become a formal extension to the tru2way platform if it passes muster at CableLabs . (See Comcast, Panny Join on Set-Tops.)

Comcast spokesman Mike Schwartz confirmed what Panasonic execs were telling HDMI-CEC demo-watchers here at the show -- that HDMI-CEC is primed to become a permanent member of the tru2way family.

As a refresher, HDMI-CEC, which Panasonic already uses in its "Viera Link" TV platform, allows one remote to recognize and control cable set-tops, Blu-ray players, and other home entertainment devices via the television set they're all connected to.

HDMI-CEC essentially turns the TV into the remote control communications hub for all other devices that are connected to it via bidirectional HDMI cables. And users point the remote directly at the TV to control everything, rather than having to point it at each device individually.

So, it's all about simplicity and reducing the bag-full of remotes it requires these days to control the elements of more advanced home entertainment systems. An added plus: HDMI-CEC doesn't mess with the existing tru2way middleware, we're told.

Once those specs get approved at CableLabs, all future tru2way boxes and TVs will have to support it. But much of that's happening already.

Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) CEO François Pogodalla told Cable Digital News that his company already uses HDMI-CEC in its tru2way-based set-tops. (See Sony Drives ADB's Set-Back.) Panasonic, meanwhile, mentioned that HDMI-CEC will be standard in all 2009 Viera HDTV models as well as "select" set-tops it's building for Comcast. So this thing looks to be more than halfway there.

CableLabs did not say when it expects to pass final judgment on HDMI-CEC for tru2way, but "we think it's going to be a very fast process," said Rajesh Khandelwal, director of engineering for Panny's cable group.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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