[opendtv] Re: Sony, six cable companies adopt two-way CableCARD tech

  • From: Bill Sheppard <Bill.Sheppard@xxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 09 Jun 2008 14:49:00 -0700

Hey, Adam,

Adam Goldberg wrote:
Sony's support is key because they had been leading a counter-OCAP 
effort called DCR+, which was simply the latest flavor of Microsoft's 
decade-old attempts to keep Java out of the living room by focusing on 
protocols rather than API's.  With Sony onboard tru2way (and Tivo and
DCR+ is not an attempt to keep OCAP out of the living room (or put protocols
in), nor is it a Microsoft idea, nor was it particularly supported by
While a significant motivation (perhaps the primary one) for DCR+ may have been unrelated to concerns regarding the OCAP platform (i.e. Java), there is no question that Microsoft has taken every opportunity to lend support to any platform positioned in opposition to a Java-based platform, and has used the "protocols vs API's" argument repeatedly as justification.
The problem with OCAP, for a TV manufacturer, in a world where a consumer
has many different sources of content available to them (even when they
subscribe to Cable), is that in order to have access to the whole range of
cable content, the cable operators (via OCAP, licenses, etc) prohibit any additions to that content/environment.  Furthermore, if you put masking tape over the brand name on the bezel, and connect 10 different OCAP sets to cable, you won't be able to tell the difference between them - they'll all look and act 100% the same.  

It is not possible to have a guide/etc which gives, on one screen (or even
in one 'mode'), access to cable linear, SDV, VOD, and PPV --and also--
YouTube, iTunes video, stuff recorded on another device on your home
network, Hulu, etc etc etc.  Yes, it's possible to do everything BUT cable
in one 'mode', and everything cable in a cable mode', but that's a
bastardized half solution.

The DCR+ proponents argue that it should be possible to build a TV which
does the above, and it should be possible to build an OCAP TV and it should
be possible to build a TV which does both (depending on what the consumer
wants).  If the cable operators, via OCAP, are able to provide a compelling
experience, consumers will buy OCAP TVs or rent OCAP STBs.  If CE
manufacturers are able to provide a compelling experience (which possibly
makes disparate content sources available in a convenient way), then
consumers will buy those sets.  If both, then both.
The vision you're attributing to the DCR+ proponents is largely independent of the underlying technology.  That is, if the cable operators are able to make access to their content available via DCR+, they can do it via OCAP.
Which is better for consumers?  Competition between content access
environment, with the free market driving the experience better and better
... or a cable-controlled, content-segmented, completely undifferentiated
The free market will still drive competition.  If Tivo makes non-cable content more compelling by offering a friendlier, more attractive, more feature-rich guide for non-cable content, cable will be forced to either compete to make their guide more compelling, or to offer up their content as part of the preferred guide experience.  I agree a segmented content marketplace isn't ideal, but it's simply a fact that the content coming from your service provider is constrained in many ways relative to the content coming from other sources (broadcast, internet, Netflix/Amazon, etc.).

-----Original Message-----
From: opendtv-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:opendtv-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On
Behalf Of Bill Sheppard
Sent: Friday, May 30, 2008 1:24 PM
To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [opendtv] Re: Sony, six cable companies adopt two-way CableCARD

Craig Birkmaier wrote:
At 12:20 PM -0400 5/29/08, Manfredi, Albert E wrote:
This is what Michael Powell was trying to make happen. This should also
work with so-called switched video.

It seems inevitable that other companies will also sign on, and will
then also have a voice in the evolution of this standard.
Does this really matter anymore?

Panasonic has had an agreement for more than a year - last I looked it 
has not resulted in any meaningful products.
There are a lot of moving parts here, but Sony coming on board is a 
significant event.  Yes, Panasonic has had an agreement for several 
years, but they can't release product until a)the OCAP spec is 
sufficiently mature, b)the cable operators have upgraded their head ends 
and other operational systems to support OCAP, and c)they have one or 
more cable operators who are willing to support their efforts with 
marketing dollars.  Panasonic can put tru2way (the consumer-facing brand 
for OCAP) devices on the store shelves, but without significant consumer 
education it's likely few people would buy them.  It's been said that 
Comcast has budgeted $50M this year to promote Panasonic (and perhaps 
Samsung) tru2way TV's at retail this fall, meaning you'll likely see 
lots of advertising regarding the benefits of tru2way and I surmise 
price incentives so that a tru2way TV is no more expensive than the 
comparable model without tru2way support.

Sony's support is key because they had been leading a counter-OCAP 
effort called DCR+, which was simply the latest flavor of Microsoft's 
decade-old attempts to keep Java out of the living room by focusing on 
protocols rather than API's.  With Sony onboard tru2way (and Tivo and 
Intel having previously announced their support) the DCR+ group is 
unlikely to maintain enough critical mass to distract the industry's 
efforts from achieving a single standard platform.  Further, it would 
appear from details coming out around Sony's announcement that the MoU 
formalizes a method by which the CE vendor and the cable operator can 
each present their own "face to the consumer" on the same device, i.e. 
the cable operator's guide with whatever content (and restrictions) they 
provide, and the CE vendor can support whatever capabilities and content 
they are able to deliver independently of (or in cooperation with) the 
cable operator.  With internet connectivity (i.e. DLNA support, YouTube, 
etc.) increasingly built-in to TV's, the availability of a standard 
platform to deliver this content should accelerate development of a 
marketplace independent of the cable operator.

Finally, what is now essentially a unifed CE voice (without the 
distraction of DCR+) may well provide the focus required to gain 
DirecTV, Dish, AT&T, and Verizon's support of a common OCAP-ish 
platform.  Which, having spent the last eleven years at Sun in pursuit 
of this goal, would delight me to no end!


Bill Sheppard
Chief Digital Media Officer
Client Software Group
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
4220 Network Circle M/S USCA22-316
Santa Clara, CA 95054 USA
Phone/Fax: +1 408 404-1254
Email bill.sheppard@xxxxxxx
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