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Television Media Technology

Cable Industry to Standardize Under Tru2Way 216

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the foot-in-the-door dept.
smooth wombat writes "In a move to stave off the FCC, cable operators have now agreed upon one standard to allow TVs and other gear that will work regardless of cable provider. This standard should allow the development of new services and features that rely on two-way communication over the cable network. The core of the matter is this: there are tvs and other devices which can receive digital programming but cannot talk back to the network. As a result, subscribers must rent out boxes from cable companies. This new standard should, in theory, do away with having to rent a box. There are two downsides to this standard. First, Sony has not signed onto the cable industry's idea and second, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wants to put forth a proposal for a more open and competitive environment using a completely different standard."
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Cable Industry to Standardize Under Tru2Way

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  • For a moment ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by overshoot (39700) on Monday January 07, 2008 @04:14PM (#21945910)
    I thought this was about CableCard, which was the last plan that would have rendered company-specific set-top boxes obsolete and brought universal interoperability.

    Now remind me how that turned out.

  • by Scareduck (177470) on Monday January 07, 2008 @04:18PM (#21945982) Homepage Journal
    Though the proffered reason this is happening is because of FCC pressure, I wonder that the real reason for this isn't advertiser interest in seeing an end to electronic babel. With every major cable system using (effectively) proprietary hardware, detailed viewing habit data acquisition is difficult or at least complex. I would be very interested to see what kind of information will be shipped back to the provider end, and when. For instance, if you watch a time-delayed show on your DVR does it rat on you when you fast-forward past the commercials? That has to be valuable to advertisers by itself, and getting it in a uniform format regardless of provider would be helpful, too.
  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Monday January 07, 2008 @04:22PM (#21946018) Homepage
    > FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wants to put forth a proposal for a more open
    > and competitive environment using a completely different standard

    Like the way we now have a separate HDTV standard than everyone else in the world because they advocated a NTSC replacement even though the existing European standard was perfectly fine?

    Perhaps they mean "standard" as in "Imperial Weights and Measures"? It's the "Imperial" part that always ends up being a problem.

    Maury
  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nonsequitor (893813) on Monday January 07, 2008 @04:23PM (#21946044)
    Why do I want my appliances talking back to any service provider? I value my privacy and I don't want my TV reporting my viewing habits any more than I want a smart fridge reporting my eating habits.

    What's wrong with the push method of content distribution? I am skeptical as to what value this really adds to my viewing experience. I get the feeling its not about improving the user's experience at all, but more for gathering data on viewing habits to better price advertising time. I guess I'm at a loss as to what compelling technical problem this solves. The only thing the article really mentions is a lack of standardization for how these devices can acheive 2 way communication, but it never states why that is even necessary.
  • Great (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday January 07, 2008 @04:23PM (#21946050)
    I can't think of a single good reason that I want my TV talking back to my cable company.
  • by icebike (68054) on Monday January 07, 2008 @04:24PM (#21946060)
    How is it that an FCC chairman that wants a MORE OPEN standard constitutes a downside?

    Why should we have to buy a TV with multiple tuners, picture in picture, dual channel viewing and all sorts of neat capabilities and then be mugged by the cable companies on the way to watch the ball game?

    Cable card http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CableCARD [wikipedia.org] was supposed to eliminate this, but the cable companies refused the ability to get channel guide info for sets using cable cards.

    Personally, I think the FCC should outlawt cable companies from selling set top boxes PERIOD. Take the revenue out of their hands and standards would be adhered to, third parties would arrive, guide info would magically appear on the internet, and every thing would be much more consumer friendly. Mandate only cable card and free the strangle hold. Everybody will be buying a new TV in the next four years anyway, the time is ripe.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by duranaki (776224) on Monday January 07, 2008 @04:26PM (#21946088)
    Pay Per View, Video on Demand, etc.
  • by glindsey (73730) on Monday January 07, 2008 @04:29PM (#21946142)

    I guess I should point out that I work for Comcast(As a drone in sector 7G), but I honestly find this an impressive device coming next year: http://www.comcast.com/ces/anyplay.aspx [comcast.com]
    A device which would kick ass if not for the fact that content providers will be able to choose exactly what you're "allowed" to take on the road, and how long it can sit on your portable box before automatically expiring.

    As usual, kickass technology is hobbled by greedy little shits who want to make sure you have to lease all of your content through them, in perpetuity.
  • by garcia (6573) on Monday January 07, 2008 @04:29PM (#21946158) Homepage
    It would have been impressive if it were competing with devices that came out in 2003 and 2004 that did exactly the same thing except without the blessings of the cable companies.

    Instead of devices that further lock you into one provider, I think that cable companies should be forced to come up with ways to allow their subscribers to get the content they have recorded onto their devices easily -- no reformatting, no slow downloading (TiVo via wifi), etc.

    They want to have lock-in permitted by the government? Well, we should get something in return other than higher rates and ever shittier service.
  • Re:Mythtv guide (Score:4, Insightful)

    by glindsey (73730) on Monday January 07, 2008 @04:41PM (#21946314)
    No way. CableLabs would never open up their protocol specifications for open-source use. They're trying to make this a standard so they can totally dominate the market. Interoperability? Please. What they want is for every single manufacturer using "tru2way" technology to pay out the nose to be "Tru2Way Certified" or compliant or compatible or whatever the hell the cute little sticker on the front of the appliance will say. They need complete and utter control over every aspect of the hardware and software, or their DRM won't work, see?
  • This is just 2-way cablecard, aka Cablecard 2.0, aka Open Cable, rebranded with yet another name. It's all a marketing gimmick designed to shake off the negative connotations attached to CableCard and its failure in the marketplace at the hands of the cable companies. These still aren't the droids you're looking for.

    I think every cable customer who has every had to use a shitty digital cable tuner for any period of time knows that they suck mightily. They're some of the worst consumer electronics products put into wide release in the last decade. They have horrible user interfaces, they're slow to change channels, they're riddled with banner ads slapped on every spare square inch of screen real estate, they feature glacial channel guides, and are plagued by forgetful DVRs. The list of ways in which cable boxes suck goes on and on, but cable customers have put up with it because they didn't have a choice.

    Really, the customer wants to be able to do the same things with digital cable that they were able to do with analog cable back in the 90's. Namely:

    • Use the tuner built into their TV without paying the cable company rental fees for a box or a device
    • Hook the cable directly into a recording device for time-shifting without noticeable DRM restrictions
    • See open competition in the set-top box marketplace to drive down prices and create innovative new interfaces & services
    • Do and have all of the above without sacrificing PPV, On-Demand, other new features, or any channel subscriptions they've paid for.

    10 years and an act of Congress later, Cablecard was supposed to do give us all of the above, but the implementations have been so intentionally broken by the cable companies that it's basically useless. Cable companies have intentionally made the experience of using a cablecard-equipped PC with Windows Media Center (a fine device, whatever Slashdot's biases) or a cablecard-equipped Tivo a complete nightmare. Purchasers have to put up with broken installs, untrained technicians, and then once everything is set up, the system is so fragile that without notice the devices just Stop Working for days at a time, and often don't resume function until hours are spent on the phone with Comcast support. Users of WMC or TivoHD also lose access to PPV and On-Demand, even though they still have to pay the cable company for access to those features, and any channels that are deployed on a new back-end technology called SDV are inaccessible as well. Current WMC PC's and cablecard Tivo's are already obsolete, not 2 years into their product lifespan. CableCard is a lousy deal, and the cable companies have gone out of their way to make sure it remains a lousy deal, because the last thing they want to do is open up their network to competition.

    CableCard 2.0, or 2-way cablecard, or OpenCable, or (now) True2Way, or whatever they call it, is supposed to be a panacea. These devices will allow 2-way communications with the cable company's network, and let you buy any cable box you want, complete with ppv and on-demand and SDV. But here's the rub: They use a technology called OCAP, with is four-letter-acronym for "Whatever box you buy will download and run the cable company's shitty software in a sandboxed virtual machine, and the box provider can offer no features above and beyond what is deployed by the cable company." There is no real competition under the OCAP model, because when plugged into the cable network and activated, the boxes will all be EXACTLY THE SAME. Maybe they can compete on hard disk space, but that'll be about it. You want a Tivo or WMC interface? If your cable company doesn't offer one (for the low low price of $15 a month, but did I mention that our standard cable box interface is free!) then you're screwed. You want an interface that isn't covered in banner ads? Good luck with that. The cable company remains the keyholder to the gates of the network, and there's no chance in hell they'll open up.

    All this announcement means is that y

  • by EdelFactor19 (732765) <adam.edelstein@a ... i.edu minus poet> on Monday January 07, 2008 @05:17PM (#21946726)
    neither; we pay them for cable tv. if they create a barrier such as a needed box to provide themselves with security they should have to shoulder the burden and provide the box for free. Do you have to pay the phone company for a special box to use their phone lines? do you have to pay the power company for special box? do you pay the water company for a special box? no you dont.

    as long as you need the box to obtain all of the features that they provide and advertise as part of their offering the box should free. That they charge for the box and seperately for the remote is even more absurd.

    I won't buy it because I have no guarantee that they wont change the boxes out the next day. And oh wait who decided that those boxes were 400? oh right the cable company gets to, because they have no competition and no one buys them. How is it that this stupid cable box is 400 when for that same amount you could buy a basic desktop computer? You could buy a PS3 for that price; and last I checked the PS3 was significantly more complicated to produce, and more powerful.. And they are often 6 a month, and then another dollar a month for the remote... and then another chunk for them to come out and give you the box, and then another box for everytv in your house.

    This is only made more assanine by the extremely outrageous rates they charge for setup and installation of service. I moved into an apartment complex that was already wired for cable; all the had to do was flick a switch, hand me the cable box and cable modem. If i could have done it myself I would have; instead i have to wait till they can come out; and pay them about 150 dollars to do nothing which took about 45 minutes. Why is it that a "cable guy" who 9 times out of 10 hasn't even been to college is providing me with roughly an hours worth of work that is somehow "more expensive" than an hours worth of my work at my job; which I had to attain a top tier college degree for?

    Its not just the box; its the box and the other crapload of fees they associate with it. Oh you want us to hook up the box? more $ please. oh you want a remote for it? well you can buy a universal which wont have every feature of our remote since we have some special buttons, or you can rent ours for yep more $.
    Thanks to cable boxes the channel labelling features of tv's are useless. honestly having cable my tv remote is basically never used; the only thing i programmed my universal remote to use from it is power on / off, menu, up/down/left/right/enter for the settings, and input switch.

    a cable card installer? whats the training for that? "this is the slot, you put the card here"?... why do you need someone to put a card in a slot for you? a friend just got an hdtv and a cable card for it; it has a slot on the front face. Worked like a charm; i was even able to watch the infamous cowboys/panthers and pats/giants games on the "NFL NETWORK" on the darn thing.

    I dont think it proves a damn thing; because the cable companies have been going at great length not to comply with that theyve been asked to, and doing so as slowly as humanly possible. "It just goes to show that, yet again, attempting to regulate the free market just doesn't work" this is statement couldnt be more invalid. The cable companies dont exist in a free market. In a free market the cable company would provide one thing; the cable. Anyone could create a device to be used to connect to it; they dont allow that. in fact they formed a monopoly of sorts because the user has no choice, and there is no competition. what can you choose other than the one cable provider in your town, the non existent other cable provider? not renting or buying a box from them? renting or buying a box from someone else? and that isnt what makes a monopoly anyhow; its the practices for exclusion. "lets create a box and legally not allow anyone else to make them" "lets make it so that cable ready tv's cant be cable ready anymore" "lets offer only a crippled version to those who look to third party
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mzs (595629) on Monday January 07, 2008 @05:59PM (#21947202)
    We had PPV in the '80s. We informed the cable company with a phone call before the show. I imagine today it could be done over http.
  • by Scaba (183684) <joe AT joefrancia DOT com> on Monday January 07, 2008 @06:01PM (#21947218)

    It just goes to show that, yet again, attempting to regulate the free market just doesn't work.

    That's a ridiculous assertion. It's like saying every crime committed is further proof that laws just don't work. Citing an example of someone not following the rules as proof that the rules themselves are flawed is just specious. If you stopped chanting the conservative party line for a minute, you'd realize you benefit more from regulations on free markets than you think. Your food is required to meet certain standards of safety, your children aren't allowed to work in sweatshops, and in fact, you aren't allowed to have sweatshops, your place of work is required to meet a threshold of safety, your automobile is required to meet a certain threshold of safety, etc. Free markets can only regulate themselves if everyone always acts in perfect enlightened self-interest and if all actions have zero consequences. This is where your Ayn Rand and reality sharply diverge.

  • by Ilgaz (86384) * on Monday January 07, 2008 @06:48PM (#21947746) Homepage
    With MS popping up in story and saying "It will be supported on NEXT generation of WINDOWS", they will likely use some joke format MS provides.

    Intel and MS on same story gives a very bad clue: Windows (Media)

    I have no clue how many times a format must fail before MS gives up sinking billions of Dollars. Industry decided: It is either MPEG4 or H264.

    Whole planet is running TCP/IP (over DOCSis cable comms) mixed with DVB-C for 2 way cable and these idiots are "inventing" things. In fact, by the time this standard takes off, people will ask why they should get "Trusomething" signal to their boxes while their computer can stream H264/HD content on demand over web over ordinary TCP/IP, not UDP even. I think cable "box" will actually be something like Apple TV, an ordinary computer using very standard protocols. That is in case you want a remote control and old fashion channel zapping. No need for "Tru" things, there is already a true established standard named ATSC (DVB-C if you are European) and TCP/IP, DOCSIS etc.
  • by Buelldozer (713671) <cliff.gindulis@net> on Monday January 07, 2008 @07:53PM (#21948336)
    We already DO build all of this stuff into televisions!

    Are you not old enough to remember the original cable boxes that had tuning crystals in them? You'd either turn a knob or hit a button on a box seperate from the TV. That box would modulate it's output to TV channel 3 (or 4) and that's the channel you would turn your television to.

    As time went on and cable systems standardized televisions started getting cable tuners built into them. This is why most televisions now can tune the first 70 or so cable channels. Those analog channels were standardized sometime back in the 80s and all TVs now have tuners built into them for this.

    What people are seeking is a return to this convenience for DIGITAL cable.

    Frankly digital should have been deployed like this from the get go and I can't understand why cable companies are blocking a return to A/V equipment with built in tuners.
  • by Mr2001 (90979) on Monday January 07, 2008 @08:15PM (#21948514) Homepage Journal

    Restaurants that aren't good go out of business; restaurants that served poisonous food would be out of business in a day, even without health codes. We've got private certifications for quality in other arenas; I see no reason to believe they wouldn't work in food, as well.
    Here's one reason: we tried it before and it didn't work. That's why we have regulations now.

    Regulation is a handy tool when consumers don't have perfect information, which they usually don't. How clean is the kitchen at your local Chinese restaurant? Who knows! All you know as a customer is that it tastes all right and you haven't gotten sick from it yet. But are they letting ingredients sit out just a little too long? Are they keeping their vegetables in a bin on the floor with raw chicken juice dripping down onto them? Are they smoking while they work and putting the butts out in the vat where the meat is marinating?
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday January 07, 2008 @08:38PM (#21948706)
    I already have an AnyPlay. It's called a "laptop".

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