TiVo Developing Standalone OCAP/Tru2Way Box

I just mentioned this in my post on their financial results, but I feel this is big enough news to call out in its own post. TiVo is developing a new standalone box that will natively support Tru2Way, formerly known as OCAP, for advanced cable features. That means a TiVo with built-in support for SDV, VOD, PPV, and pretty much any advanced cable feature offered via Tru2Way. As Tom Rogers was quoted in TiVo’s financial statement:

In this regard, we are working in conjunction with CableLabs toward creating a standalone box that would be capable of providing the two way services provided by cable operators.

During the conference call Q&A he further elaborated that the Tru2Way-enabled TiVo standalone is seen as something TiVo can market to both consumers and cable MSOs. For consumers it would be marketed just like the TiVo HD, while for cable MSOs it would be offered as a STB for them to offer to their customers, just as they do today with Motorola or Scientific Atlanta boxes. This is similar to Digeo’s plans for the Moxi hardware, and it would offer a compliment and alternative to TiVo’s OCAP software for other hardware platforms.

The possibility of TiVo developing such a unit was first broached last November in an FCC filing relating to the Tuning Resolver:

In this proceeding, TiVo had expressed concerns about the cable industry’s OpenCable Application Platform (“OCAP”) 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 “TiVo mode” displaying all linear channels (including switched digital video enabled by OCAP) with the TiVo user interface and full DVR functionality as well as a “cable mode” running OCAP and displaying all cable programming services with the cable user interface without DVR functionality.

That was a strong indication that TiVo would be heading in this direction, but I believe today’s statements are the first to confirm that TiVo is indeed pursuing development of such a box. My bet would be on an evolution of the TiVo HD platform. This would most likely be mainly a software change, to provide the OCAP virtual machine platform, as well as the hand-off process for swapping between the TiVo platform and the OCAP platform. TiVo may be able to work off of their existing HME system, as they already have the ability to jump between ‘native’ and HME menus, etc. The major hardware change would be the addition of transceiver hardware to handle the bidirectional communication.

I do wonder if there is any possibility of these capabilities being introduced in the current Series3 and TiVo HD units. A Tuning Resolver could provide the bidirectional communication capability. If the existing hardware has the power to run the OCAP code, and I think it does, it could be a software update. But I’m not willing to bet on it, at least not until we have more details on the development effort.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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  • Jack

    When this new Ocap box comes out, I will finally upgrade my 2 S2DT’s, my parents S2, and my sisters S2 with this box, and add 2 more of these boxes to the mix. For a total of 6 boxes. TiVo that’s 6 boxes just from me! :-)

    Mega my homie,
    Keep up the great work on this site. I love reading your articles. Thanks!with t

  • Joe

    Add a blu-ray player and they’d really have a winner! You’ve already got most of the components you need in a blu-ray player (video circuitry, ports, power supply, etc) so the increased cost should be much less than a stand-alone player. I love my Toshiba TiVo/DVD player. Fewer components stacked on my shelf, less cable clutter, single remote, one less device sucking up power 24×7.

  • Tom

    This is expressing my ignorance in the running of all things cable; but how does introducing OCAP to TiVo affect cable card support? Are both still necessary or will the former supplant the latter?

    Since the cable cos. have never liked the cards, I wonder if this is a way to get 3rd party STB manufacturers to drop support for it.

  • Tiivodog

    Let’s just hope their engineers team beef up the motherboard in order to support gigabit speeds this time around as they opted to not do so with either the Series3 or HD units….. Per the link below, I called this material ommission out back in Jan-06 (Anonymous Post 1/5/06 @ 22:32), when the Series3 was first unveiled and now here we are 18 months after the Series3/HD release and everyon is clamoring for the ability to move multi-gigabit files to/from their Tivo units in a reasonable timeframe:

    Past comment link.

    Anyways, the development team better not poop the bed this time around!!

    EDIT: I edited this to fix the broken link to the old comment. Note you can use HTML links in comments. -MZ

  • Hep

    What happened to the USB dongle that was talked about to enable the two way communications? Time Warner TiVo HD users like myself are losing out on all the new channel offerings due to Time Warner only adding switched video channels. TW has stated that the two-way cable cards will be available Q1 2009, but that is a long time off.

  • Hep

    nevermind…..it helps if you read things through before asking stupid questions.

  • Sully

    ” This would most likely be mainly a software change, to provide the OCAP virtual machine platform, as well as the hand-off process for swapping between the TiVo platform and the OCAP platform.”

    Once the SA’s are running OCAP – why not run the whole OS in OCAP? Doesn’t it seem that the Comcast port leads the way for a completely OCAP-based solution?

  • Jack

    Any idea on how long it might take to actually see this product hit market? I would like to think that all of the work TiVo has done to date on the ComcasTiVo front will have laid a lot of the ground work for this project. Think we could see something in a year or less?

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ MegaZone

    Jack – Thanks.

    Joe – True, the TiVo HD has pretty much all of the components needed to be a Profile 2.0 Blu-ray Player – except the drive. But they’d also need the software. Since BD-J is based on the same platform as OCAP, there could be some synergy there. But I wouldn’t count on this ever happening.

    Tom – They’re related but not the same thing. CableCARD is an access token. The cards enable decryption of encrypted channels, as well as access to some of the data services like handling channel mapping. OCAP, aka Tru2Way, is a Java-based software platform. The idea is that OCAP provides a standardized API for software applications to access the underlying hardware. For example, TiVo’s OCAP software which will, theoretically, eventually be able to run on any OCAP-compliant STB. (OCAP is still in early days right now and the whole ‘universal’ aspect isn’t quite there yet. Software still needs some tweaks to work on different platforms, but it’ll get there.) So you’d still need the CableCARD to work as the access token, while you’d need OCAP to host the software that handles the UI for PPV, VOD, etc.

    Tivodog – I wouldn’t hold your breath. They’d have to beef up pretty much the entire system to allow it to sustain gigabit speed transfers. The current system doesn’t max out 100Mbps – the Ethernet interface is not the bottleneck. Also, the Ethernet controller is part of the CPU. Most SoCs for consumer electronics still seem to be 100Mbps, you don’t see GigE much. If the chips aren’t there, TiVo won’t be doing it. And I don’t see them devolving back to using discrete chipsets because of the increased cost. The whole evolution of the platform has been toward integrated chips. We’ll see GigE when Broadcom, or the like, produces an affordable SoC which incorporates it. And, looking through their product sheets, it doesn’t look like Broadcom has GigE on their SoCs, all the ones with Ethernet that I found are 10/100.

    Hepp – Yeah, the Tuning Resolver is still coming for the S3 and HD. 2Q08 is still the expected time frame, probably close to mid-year.

    Sully – That’s possible, but the standalone boxes have a LOT more features than the cable OCAP software. Plus the current OCAP software is designed to work on boxes with constant data connections, so they actually rely on head-end servers for some of their functions – a lot more than the standalone boxes do. That’s fine when the cable company is deploying them and providing the head end, but might not work so well for consumer products. It is possible, but it would probably take longer to bring the OCAP code base up to feature parity with the standalone code than to add OCAP support to the standalone code.

    Jack – No real idea. My most optimistic would be late this year, but I don’t think that’s realistic. It is probably more likely that we’ll see something at CES 2009 in January and the box will come out sometime next year.