Will Cable Really Open Any Time Soon?

As the trend towards openness continues, one of the least likely industries to jump in the game has signaled that it is heading towards a more open environment. Yes, you guessed it; I am talking about the cable industry.

For more than 10 years we have heard about the promise of interactive television. In fact, CableLabs OpenCable has been in the works since 1997. So why is it that now, after ten years we are beginning to hear about cable operators adopting standardized technologies as opposed to the heavily walled gardens that we are used to?

For one, pressure is on from the FCC to allow consumers to bypass the rental set top box in lieu of a device of their choice. This pressure however is not necessarily the main motivation. It is my belief that the main motivation is…drum roll please…digital media!

Two nights ago I fired up Hulu on my forty-two inch plasma screen. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed a near flawless viewing experience. The commercials were few and short and the stream pixilated only once in a 90 minute viewing session (which is actually more than I can say for my Time Warner Cable viewing experiences).

Days later I heard the news that Cablelabs recently unveiled the newly branded version of Open Cable; Tru2Way;

Tru2way technology is built into televisions, set-top boxes, and other devices enabling cable companies and other interactive television service and application developers to “write” interactive applications such as games once and see them run successfully on any cable television system that supports the specification.”

Comcast, the country’s largest cable operator has announced the adoption of Tru2way. This announcement comes at a time when threats such as Hulu and Amazon Unbox become more and more of a reality.

So what does the future have in store for the cable industry? Are they already too far behind the digital media companies, or is their reach large enough to buy them time and play catch up?

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Time will tell!