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Lessons From the Tru2way Confab

5/24/2008 2:00 AM Eastern

Last time, I listed what I hoped to learn at the Tru2way Developers Conference: A realistic workflow and launch plan for developers, and that fears of the “rogue app” won’t stunt progress.

Days later, the Comcast Media Center popped up with its new “Axis” program here in Denver. It covers the first two items, at least in intent. The fear factor usually lessens with experience; a few successes will help. (The more that they’re $$ successes, the better, as these things tend to go.)

Here’s what else I learned at the conference, which ran last Saturday and Sunday, prior to the annual Cable Show in New Orleans.

Hardware first. If you’re a marketer wondering how to help sell those Tru2way HDTVs that will retail into some cable markets this fall, know this: Consumers are “resoundingly interested” in digital cable without the set-top box. Panasonic, which hosted the research, noted that an unusually large percentage of consumers surveyed said they’d be very likely to buy such a set.

Why will people fork over a couple hundred extra dollars for a TV with a built-in set-top? Three reasons: No monthly set-top rental fees. No futzing with wiring. One remote control, not two or more.

So that’s good.

As for a national Tru2way footprint: Pay attention to that word “capable.” As in,“Tru2way-capable.” Back when operators were going from 550 Megahertz to 750 MHz, amplifiers were often described as being “750-capable.” It meant that there was an empty slot in the housing for the module that would plunk in the extra bandwidth.

Same thing for “Tru2way-capable” and “OCAP-capable.” It means the boxes have enough room, in terms of processing power, to accommodate the middleware. It does not necessarily mean that it’s been loaded and activated.

Taking an amplifier from “capable” to “activated” meant sending someone to it, opening it, and physically installing the thing.

In software, going from “capable” to “activated” is “just a software download.” I put it in quotes to again reflect the sage words of cable-engineering pioneer Alex Best, formerly chief technical officer of Cox Communications, who famously said, “every time someone says 'just a software download,’ my knees knock.”

All in, this year’s conference substantially deepened the conversations across the wide landscape that is Tru2way. It seemed to engender a feeling of “authentically imminent,” balanced by an equal amount of “understandably wary.”

Where you are depends on whether you’re a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty person.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis atwww.translation-please.com.

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