A couple of months ago at CES Panasonic was one of the vendors showing off Tru2way, nee OCAP, products. At the time I focused on their ‘portable DVR‘, which I still think is a poor idea. But what I didn’t mention at the time were their Tru2Way CableCARD HDTVs, which they said would be out later this year. Well, based on reports in Dealerscope and Home Theater Magazine, it looks like they’ll be true to their word. Panasonic will be introducing Tru2Way to their PX80 720p and PZ80 1080p VIERA plasma line-ups in the second half.
The first generation of CableCARD TVs, which were all unidirectional, didn’t sell well and they’ve faded to just a few models left in the market. The hope is that the new generation of CableCARD sets, with Tru2Way, will succeed where the first generation failed. With Tru2Way the TV will have all of the functionality of a non-DVR cable STB – support for Switched Digital Video (SDV), OnDemand, PayPerView, on-screen program guide, etc. It will completely replace the cable box while providing all of the same functionality, unlike the first generation which only allowed access to linear content – no SDV, VOD, PPV, EPG, etc.
In theory, Tru2Way-enabled TVs could also offer DVR functionality, either with built-in storage or an external add-on. The cable MSO could push down OCAP-based DVR software, like TiVo’s software for Comcast, to provide the DVR functionality. But that would require support in the hardware, including encoding chips to handle the analog channels. (Note that I’m talking in general here, there is no sign of the Panasonic sets having any such features!) This would all be easier with a complete digital system. Once NTSC is phased out (less than year from now), the last obstacle will be the lingering analog cable channels. If a cable MSO went 100% digital, or at least offered digital simulcast of all their channels, it would be possible to provide DVR functionality without any encoding hardware. You’d simply need to save the signal as-received, and then play it back later – and the playback hardware is already in there, of course. (This is how satellite DVRs work today, they’re 100% digital. And there are some cable DVR models like this as well, for areas where the system is already 100% digital.)
ZatzNotFunny also covered this today.