Tru2way Troubles?

Well, tru2way's road to "openness" and a retail market for set-tops and digital TVs with all of cable's interactive fixins was bound to hit a road bump or two, right?

Consumer electronics firms may be lining up to support tru2way, but it appears that passing the certification tests at CableLabs will be easier said than done. (See More Firms Go the Way of Tru2way and Sony Supports tru2way.) That's not exactly a huge surprise, as anyone who remembers the early days of Docsis testing can attest.

But the latest news doesn't appear promising for those who were hoping tru2way-powered TVs would establish much of a retail foothold this year. IP Democracy, citing unnamed sources, reported Tuesday that Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC)'s recent shot at certification was generally buggy and a "disaster of spectacular proportions."

A CableLabs spokesman declined to comment Tuesday afternoon, citing a policy that the R&D house does not publish certification test results.

"While we cannot address speculation made in the media about specific test results, it is important to understand that it is common for devices to require multiple test runs before achieving CableLabs certification," CableLabs noted in a follow-up statement issued today. "Manufacturers generally account for such timing in their product plans."

IP Democracy blogger Cynthia Brumfield further suggests that the recent failure could jeopardize Panasonic's initial foray into the tru2way retail arena. Panasonic has plans to offer two tru2way-based sets from its Viera line -- a 42-incher and a 50-incher -- by this September, in time for the 2008 holiday season. It's also working on a tru2way-fueled HD-DVR set-top and a "portable" DVR for Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) that's set for release in 2009. (See Comcast, Panasonic Unveil Portable DVR and What Is tru2way's True Potential? )

A Panasonic spokesman said the CE giant had no comment about the reported certification failure. When asked if Panasonic was still on track to roll out the two tru2way sets by September, he responded: "As far as I know."

CableLabs noted that Panasonic has entered an "upcoming certification wave, which provides ample time for products to reach the marketplace to meet the company's rollout schedule." CableLabs also stressed that two companies have gotten tru2way certification: Advanced Digital Broadcast (ADB) for its 4820C hi-def set-top and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) for an unnamed digital TV model in August 2005. (See ADB Scores tru2way Certification.)

According to the schedule posted by CableLabs, OpenCable devices are due in tomorrow (June 12) if vendors want to participate in the next testing round -- Certification Wave 61. The fee for submitting an OpenCable Host Device ("hosts" include set-tops, DVR combos, and TVs) to CableLabs for certification testing is $175,000.

A streamlined version of the tru2way license will, at some point, allow CE companies to self-certify their products and to obtain "paper certification" for simple, cosmetic changes. (See tru2way Signs Up Samsung.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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