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0808.1 Tru2Way – Glacial Pace Technology Which is on the
0808.1.3 Time Warner
0808.2 New Opportunities from the Show Floor
0808.2.1 Zodiac Interactive
0808.2.6 Sigma Designs
0808.3 WAVE Comments
May 17-20, 2008
It is expected that Cable 2008 will attract over 14,000 attendees and greater than 350 exhibitors. This is the premier event of the cable industry in the US. The emphasis is on technology, sales of programming to the MSOs and government affairs. In spite of the fact that cable is an important provider of broadband service the floor is populated with content providers – such as the Weather Channel, Disney and Fox. Content still remains the staple of the business, even as the triple play plays an increasing role. But like the telecos, the cable companies are fighting the perception they are no more than just a communications pipe to the home. Content has become commoditized across teleco and satellite video delivery. To avoid being just a pipe the cable companies must provide value added services, such as telephony and even interactive television, to bring value to consumers and enhance the business model. It is here that at Cable 2008 the emergence of Tru2Way was a major contributor of the impact of this event.
Here are some of the latest cable industry statistics:
Total Homes Passes by Cable Video – 123.4m
0808.1 Tru2Way – Glacial Pace Technology Which is on the Move
The driver for Tru2Way can be traced to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which required retail “navigation” devices.” This was further supported by an FCC ruling that separable security be required to permit retail offerings of a STB. The net effect of this is that the consumer would no longer have to rent a STB from the cable supplier. Yet, it is 2008 and consumers still cannot purchase a STB. But this is expected to change in limited markets by the end of 2008 and on a larger scale in 2009. But there is more than retail availability of the STB, Tru2Way is about opening the cable network to 3rd party developers.
What are the market dynamics which are finally causing a change?
Those who own a managed network what to avoid others on the network which might destroy its integrity. This
Advertisers are seeking a more direct relationship with consumers using cable for video delivery. While
The Internet is a well spring of new applications and experimentation which the cable industry cannot come
The early attempts at ETV, Enhanced TV, for interactive television have been seen as successful.
Enhanced television programming (ETV) is programming with an associated interactive
The CableLabs Enhanced Television project was initiated in early 2004 to provide a technical
Tru2Way does not support applications which run across the transport layers of the cable system: that is
The MSOs are expecting that when there is more competition for the STBs and commodity parts are used
MSO’s would like to shift the capital resources going into STB purchase and leasing to the consumers at
Cable has a large nationwide network, similar to the Internet, which directly touches at least 37m customers. Yet it is only being used to deliver video, Internet connectivity or voice. The network is more broadcast like than the Internet.
Why then is something as relatively simple as a middleware layer in Tru2Way having such a profound impact?
The MSOs feed video to terminal devices, the STB, which are simple computers made largely by two
To enable retail availability, those supplying the STB must have a single specification to build to. This is,
From an MSO perspective they must also upgrade their network both at the head end to support these new STBs
The cable industry used Cablelabs as the means to carry out the technical efforts to architect, specify and enable the testing of Tru2Way and its variations. There are many considerations when evaluating Tru2Way. Some include:
The essence of Tru2Way is that it can be programmed via an API using Java. This is based on the European
Cablelabs has defined EBIF, but not yet included it in the Tru2Way spec. This is defined by Wikipedia as:
Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) is a multimedia content format defined by a
EBIF is considered by many as a lightweight Tru2Way which allows for simple applications to be run on a
Tru2Way also supports BD-J, Although not being considered by many developers this, according to
BD-J, or Blu-ray Disc Java, is the interactive platform supporting advanced content for Blu-ray
One of the major limitations of Tru2Way is that it lacks a presentation layer. Thus, HTML is being
For many developers this lack of portability of web based applications is a significant drawback
Tru2Way only works on the video portion of the cable system. It has no provision for crossing over to
DOCSIS Set-top Gateway (or DSG) is a specification describing how out of band data is
Comcast has another layer for application development which is deployed in its system. Called, On Ramp, this
Building a digital network with common transport with similar terminal devices begins to look like a single
One of the shortfalls of Tru2Way is the limited set of development tools and testing environments. Cablelabs
There are several ways to look at Tru2Way. One is the purpose of the software middleware. Another is the specifications being developed by Cablelabs. Another is what the MSOs are doing. So far we have focused on just the first two. It turns out that the latter in our list is one of the most informative.
Comcast is playing an important role in the development, testing and deployment of Tru2Way applications. Here is some of what was said and announced.
In a panel on Developing Applications and Content, James Capps, for the Comcast Media Center warned n the
“We need to fight back the stream of advertising $ going to the Internet.”
He cautioned that:
The scale of operations to support a large market are often staggering.
Introduction of new features stresses the system.
The manpower requirements can be very high.
He stressed the typical cable response to such a system wide issue – the need for centralized
Along these lines Comcast announced via its Comcast Media Center a set of services to support just this. A
Comcast Media Center (CMC) has started the HITS Advanced Interactive Services (”AxIS”). This is a
The platform is being done in conjunction with Vidiom and TVWorks. Further, support is also
The intent is that the HITS AxIS service will serve as a centralized resource to support the
The HITS AxIS service will also provide cable system operators with an alternative to headend-
During the Tru2Way Developers conference and the opening session a number of comments were made by MSOs. These provide valuable reference points for the deployment of the open cable network:
By the end of 2008 95% of the network, i.e., the head ends, will support Tru2Way. This is not the STBs but
EOY 2008 – 60% of the STBs
EOY 2008 – 60+% operationally capable – focus on TiVo functionality
EOY 2008 – focus on retail
By retail, Comcast means, that it will be pushing consumer purchase of Tru2Way devices or televisions
EVT are like bound applications. That is, the interactive activities are bound to the programming
There are 3 elements required to support 3rd party Tru2Way applications:
Better tools for development. An example being TVWorks. We have pushed the use of a “WBA – Well
Test and operational environment. This is where HITS AxIS fits.
Business model for developers.
The top two is the single biggest issue facing developers today.
Comcast expects that HITS AxIS will allow us to run beta tests in a manner very similar to web
Developers will come with applications for our network we never though of. We expect to see “off-network”
Presently web services are not a great fit on Tru2Way do to the limitations in the definition of Tru2Way, as
Comcast announced, or at least hinted, that they will bridge using Tru2Way and the STBs to the Internet.
The efforts to connect with the Internet will likely not happen in 12 months. How much happens in 2009
When there is a bridge between the data and video pipes interesting services result. The one most often
When the Internet is used for discovery it has been found that this increased television media
When asked about the Comcast acquisition of the social networking site Plaxo, as a means to integrate video
A number of questions were asked on how developers can work with Comcast and how they can create a business
Comcast intends to support games with Tru2Way.
Comcast is running a trail in Boston where the TiVo experience, as developed by TiVo, is running on a
DSG is for content not the application. Using this approach will allow us to shield the network from the
BDLive is another connection to content.
Tru2Way is “flat out way for our future.”
Cable is 10 years behind mobile in developing an open network platform.
Everything is on DSG.
Tru2Way and DSG changes the whole development process.
IP applications for cable will take advantage of the IP infrastructure.
Cox lit up OnRamp in Northern Virginia for 71,000 users and 49,000 used it. This is primarily for
0808.1.3 Time Warner
Time Warner began the roll out of Tru2Way capable boxes in Q2 2007. This is now supported in 40% of the
Time Warner will not proactively seek to replace STBs to support Tru2Way but use the normal replacement
The 3rd party applications currently supported include:
In the future, Time Warner intends to use Tru2Way to support Home Networking. Many questions were asked
It is the intent of Time Warner to add more value in the home. The STB with Tru2Way will play a key role in
When asked about support for DLNA and DRM wrapping Time Warner would not comment.
We expect to see bridging between voice, data and video on our network.
Not having content switching between the video and Internet is a major issue with Tru2Way.
During other panels at the developer conference statements were made about the role of Tru2Way.
Retail television sets will be available in Q3 2008 for sale.
Consumers are reluctant to embed new features in the new televisions they buy. For example, as televisions
There is an increasing trend to move functions from the PC and home to the Internet. This includes storage
Best Buy stated that they expect to pay no premium for Tru2Way to be a part of a television.
Comcast and Best Buy have used Geek Squad for the installation and set up of products purchase at
Samsung will introduce Tru2Way products in 2008.
Cablelabs is considering a reserved section of the screen area as a user zone in a Tru2Way environment.
0808.2 New Opportunities from the Show Floor
Tru2Way has unleashed a well spring of new technology which supports a more open cable environment.
0808.2.1 Zodiac Interactive
Zodiac Interactive calls itself the Interactive Television 2.0 company. The company has the PowerPlatform which enables the development of interactive content which runs on the STB. PowerUp is the services framework middleware which runs on both Tru2Way and legacy STBs. The latter is called PowerRamp. This has a small run time memory footprint, a UI for presentation and games and HAVi.. The presentation engine has 2D/3D graphics, concurrent rendering of XML and EBIF, data cashing and a VOD streaming engine. PowerUp for tru2way builds in the same framework as PowerRamp. For example, PowerVOD is client manager to support the fast transition between VOD streams.
Zodiac was showing tvPhoto which bridges interactive TV with Flickr. By allowing Flicker content to be seen on the TV Zodiac is expecting that this will be advertiser supported. The features include: full screen slide show and to select photos based on tags. Another application is tvLocalSearch which bridges local search from the Internet to the TV screen. This enables searches for local business, exploration information about a business and a call me feature to connect with the business. All of this can execute while the viewer is watching programming.
iControl is offering a 3rd party security solution which bridges between the customers home security system, be it Honeywell or GE, and the cable infrastructure. A cable operator would sell the iControl hardware and software to enable the consumer to have visibility and control of their security system across the Internet and various mobile devices. The consumer would install a wireless box which monitors the home security system and bridges to the cable infrastructure. The key to the iControl solution is the software which is set up and controlled by the user. It allows the consumer, via a HTML interface, to set up many security monitoring conditions. Examples shown in the both were motion monitoring in the home, door openings and video display. The user can set up conditions when to be notified and to what means.
It was represented that the value to the MSOs is that the iControl products decrease churn and increase the value to the consumer beyond content.
PureNetworks offers a home network management solution. Using the H-NAT protocol which is a SOAP based API it is possible to profile and manage all the devices on the home network. This looks very similar to the Linksys LELA which the WAVE has seen previously. In fact, LELA is a version developed by Linksys based on a license from PureNetworks.
The value to the MSOs is that they are increasingly entering the management of home networks as a business. We saw this at the Tru2Way developers conference where Time Warner stated its entry into this business is a high priority. The comment made by PrueNetworks is that consumers are calling the MSOs when their home networks do not work – it is obviously connected to the Internet via cable and when Internet does not work over the home network the first call goes to the MSO. This is a business opportunity but the home network must be managed to be supported. PureNetwork enables that management.
OverSi brings local content caching of PtoP and Internet based content, such as YouTube to the MSO. This is a hardware and software solution which would reside at the head end of the MSO which services a cable plant. An impressive demonstration was seen where a YouTube video was seen the first time over the Internet and subsequent views were much faster including VCR like controlling. This performance can because subsequent requests by clients were services from the cache. The same was shown from BitTorrent peer to peer traffic.
All of this seems counterintuitive. Why would an MSO want to make potential compettive services off the Internet faster and better for the consumer? In response OverSi offered.
Churn reduction. As the competition for bandwidth supply increases, i.e., fiber buildouts, those which
A significant value add if and when, it is assumed that the only issue is when, tiered pricing is the
Anti- Net Neutrality positioning. The cable networks have taken a huge hit on the network management issue
Softel offers a head end in a box. Its MediaSphere products emulate a complete head end so that developers can develop applications, including Tru2Way in advance of certification. The applications can be developed for deployment over MediaSphere and then sent over the “network” to a STB for testing. Using such a box lowers the overall cost of development by not going to specialized facilities. There is support for GSD but not integration between the cable transport infrastructure which can be done at the STB. The desktop version sells from $25k to $35k.
0808.2.6 Sigma Designs
Sigma Designs was showing its latest reference design which supports DOCSIS 3.0 and Tru2Way. This supports:
3 tuners to record and display this number of channels simultaneously
1HD and 2SD or 2HD or 3SD channels
1 to 4 bonded channels
DOCSIS 1.X, 2.0 and 3.0 support
160Mb/s downstream data rate
120Mb/s upstream data rate with 4x configuration
Integrated web browser
Ethernet switch for HomePlug or MOCA or RJ45 Ethernet connection
Cable Card support
Telephone line card
Disk drive interface
Multi-standard video decoding – MPEG-2, H.264 and VC-1
The design permits bridging between all the transport layers over cable.
It is expected that this design or similar ones will be used in retail STBs.
Vividlogic provides the Tru2Way software stacks used in many of the STB implementations. They have a very good over view of the market. Highlights from the booth conversation.
We will see a well spring of STB offerings at retail as the MSOs seek to exit this business. The retail
Shown on the Sigma Designs DOCSIS reference design was a 4 panel video display. One was an Internet browser
To have a box certified, at Cablelabs, to be attached to a cable network means that only the minimum Tru2Way
Like the Sigma Designs reference design, crossing between the transports will be a huge advantage.
One of the fastest platforms is Intel’s Canmore but it is expensive. The results are likewise.
BOCA is not dead. It will resurface in multi-room thin client solutions.
0808.3 WAVE Comments
Tru2Way is an opportunity for the MSOs to create a network ecosystem which has access to at least 37m homes in the US. But more importantly 3rd parties will be able to build applications for the cable network. This is a striking transformation from last year. But much remains to be determined. The MSOs could not define the terms and conditions under which 3rd parties can get access to the network and deploy applications. Today’s applications which were most discussed at Cable 2008 are based on the existing video programming.
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