Will cable’s charm offensive work this time?
When CableLabs announced the name "tru2way" (timed for CES) to take the place of what everyone had for several years called OCAP, or the OpenCable Application Platform, more than a few industry insiders were nonplussed. I remember one guy I talked to at CES about tru2way literally scratched his head… then shrugged his shoulders.
Here, in a nutshell, is the point of the renaming scheme: It gives cable a clean sheet of paper.
Tru2way embodies a fresh attempt to convince the FCC, consumers, the consumer electronics industry, and the media that cable operators are really, truly interested in tearing down the walled gardens.
The message, which is exactly the same as before: Any device can play with cable! (As long as you play by the rules.) Just Rebranding 101, with a name that apparently cost more than $300,000 to invent.
What was wrong with the old name? Just that: too old.
Tru2way, a new bottle for old wine, makes it harder for people to remember that OpenCable is about 10 years old. Indeed, in 1997, CableLabs announced that it was putting OpenCable on a "fast track."
"Consumers will be the big winners from OpenCable," Bill Schleyer, chairman of the CableLabs OpenCable task force, was quoted as saying in the Nov. 5, 1997, news release. "Open specifications and the resulting competitive pricing for digital cable devices will enable a wide variety of new interactive services for consumers."
Hmm. So much for the fast track.
Fast forward to January 2008, and here’s CableLabs CEO Dick Green touting the industry’s tru2way partnerships with Panasonic, Samsung, LG, Thomson and others: "The 2008 CES was a landmark event for the cable industry… It permitted us to showcase our partnerships with leading consumer electronics manufacturers to develop TVs and other devices that will free consumers from the set-top box."
Looks like the tru2way exercise has been effective, to a certain extent. Some of the press coverage out of CES made it sound as if tru2way really was a brand-new thing. USA Today: "Federal pressure and competition from phone and satellite companies have helped motivate the cable industry to create a uniform technology named ‘Tru2way.’"
Even if you knew the history of OpenCable, it was difficult to write about the nomenclature change without characterizing it as new — The New York Times, noting that cable has been "talking about" OpenCable for years, still called tru2way a "revival."
Not everyone got the message, though.
Forbes, in its Jan. 28 issue, runs a rather unpleasant piece on Comcast’s Brian Roberts which among other things replays the hackneyed storyline of cable as big, greedy, and proprietary: Roberts, the story alleges, "led a behind-the-scenes battle to prevent cable subscribers from getting their hands on souped-up set-top boxes designed by other companies."
Oh? Forbes doesn’t fully back that assertion. But in any case, if Roberts is guilty of "11 years of foot-dragging" on the issue – well, that was back in the old OpenCable days. It’s tru2way, now! Get with the program.