Yesterday, in an exparte filing with the FCC, TiVo revealed potential future product plans. The first part of the filing covers the Tuning Resolver solution for Switched Digital Video.
Pursuant to this arrangement, TiVo and the cable industry have developed an external adaptor that will allow certain one-way CableCARD devices, such as TiVo Series3 and TiVo HD DVRs, to receive all switched digital signals without a cable set-top box. A key component to this solution involves the cable industry’s commitment to ensure that installation of CableCARDs and the external adapter will be easy and seamless for consumers.
That’s simple enough, and doesn’t reveal anything we didn’t already know. However, then the filing gets quite interesting:
In this proceeding, TiVo had expressed concerns about the cable industryâ€™s OpenCable Application Platform (â€œOCAPâ€) specifications and license terms. In response to TiVo’s concerns, the cable industry has agreed to work with TiVo to make clarifications or adjustments to OCAP that may be necessary to enable TiVo to build what TiVo believes can be a viable retail DVR with OCAP. We explained that a TiVo DVR with OCAP would have a â€œTiVo modeâ€ displaying all linear channels (including switched digital video enabled by OCAP) with the TiVo user interface and full DVR functionality as well as a â€œcable modeâ€ running OCAP and displaying all cable programming services with the cable user interface without DVR functionality.
So this is a compromise – and I’d be happy with this. Consumers would get the full benefit of TiVo for most applications, only switching to the cable company’s software, and therefore UI, for things like PPV and VOD, and any special services offered by the cable provider. That seems to be the best compromise possible, and it is certainly better than the existing stalemate where everyone suffers. I do wonder if this is something that could be introduced in software to use the Tuning Resolver developed to handle SDV, or would this require new hardware – a ‘Series4′? I suppose only time will tell.
It is interesting that TiVo has broken with the consumer electronics industry, which has been opposed to OCAP in general and has been pushing a counter proposal – DCR+ (Digital Cable Ready Plus – unidirectional CableCARD devices, like TiVo, are based on the DCR spec. DCR+ would be an evolution to add bidirectional functionality instead of implementing OCAP).
We also expressed our belief that this refined version of OCAP was a preferable solution to DCR+ for a variety of reasons, including time-to-market and the ability to receive all of cableâ€™s two-way services. Manufacturers, cable companies, and consumers will benefit most from an OCAP-based solution that enables the creation of differentiated retail devices such as TiVo DVRs and allows all of cable’s two-way services to reach the consumer within a reasonable time. In contrast, a DCR+-based solution would take longer to implement and result in devices with more limited functionality that would not enjoy the full support of the cable industry.
If this works for TiVo, I expect we’ll see more consumer electronics vendors dropping the push for DCR+ and adopting this OCAP compromise to bring products to market. I’d be happy to see that, since my main issue with OCAP has been the requirement to use the cable provided software for all functionality. This compromise would seem to allow product differentiation while still allowing end users access to advanced functionality.