Why ’09 Is Tru2way’s Boom Year

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One of the great untold success stories in today’s flat consumer-electronics market is Tru2way, an interactive technology platform that is already changing how we watch television and driving demand for new products and services.

The momentum behind Tru2way technology is powerful. The six major cable MSOs in the U.S. recently pledged that 20 percent of all new cable set-tops will be tru2way-enabled by July 1, 2009. Time Warner Cable, the nation’s 2nd largest operator, has already deployed 1.7 million Tru2way set-top boxes to customer homes.

On the hardware and software side, companies providing Tru2way technology include: chip suppliers Broadcom, ST Micro, Intel and AMD; headend infrastructure providers Motorola and Cisco; consumer-electronics manufacturers Panasonic, LG, Samsung and Sony; and software specialists like Alticast.

Open standards like Tru2way are the door opener for a booming retail market. Only standards can provide the economies of scale that consumer electronics manufactures need to be successful in a market.

There is another good reason why consumer electronics manufacturers are interested in Tru2way technology — because they want to build more sophisticated cable-ready products, such as those that incorporate Blu-ray Disc players. This dovetails neatly with the strategy of MSOs, which was articulated by Time Warner Cable’s public statements that such advanced devices are too expensive for an operator to justify buying in volume.

Perhaps Tru2way technology’s most significant benefit, and its raison d’être, is the value-added, two-way interactive services it enables. Such applications can include electronic program guides, interactive advertisements, games, chat, Web browsing, and television commerce. For cable operators, the potential to generate additional revenues per household with Tru2way technology is enormous.

Because Tru2way technology provides a common software foundation, every device looks the same to applications, making it easier for consumer electronics designers to create combo products, such as a Blu-ray Disc player with built in set-top box or TV with built in set-top-box and Blu-ray Disc player. The overlapping core technology simply makes it easier to conceive of those kinds of multi-function products.

Cable-ready TVs mean no more set-top boxes, with the benefits to consumers of lower cost and fewer wires and remotes. But there is also a significant financial benefit to cable operators, which no longer need to carry millions of set-top boxes on their balance sheets.

Perhaps the most exciting benefit of tru2way technology is the opportunity for creative companies to build new forms of interactivity. For example, Yahoo! Connected TV recently announced TV Widgets. TV Widgets are as rich, varied, and useful as the most popular sites on the Web, reinterpreted for TV. Consumers can use their TV remote control to check stock quotes and the weather, follow sports teams, read blogs, or catch-up on missed episodes of their favorite shows. Connecting tru2way functionality with technology like TV Widgets enables an entirely new class of connected television.

Adherence to open standards is critical to ensuring that software applications, cable services, and hardware devices will all work together seamlessly. At the core of this multimedia platform are two technologies: GEM (Globally Executable MHP) and Java. They provide a readily available, open, standards-based platform and specifications for developing applications, building devices, installing into homes, and everything else that goes into the delivery of interactive services.

This allows multiple cable operators to leverage a common technology foundation and then differentiate their applications and services for specific markets and geographies. For example, Blu-ray Disc Java applications on a disc can be easily repurposed for home cable using Tru2way technology, thanks to commonality of the GEM/Java platform. In Europe, cable operators can repurpose these applications the same way using DVB-MHP.

The bottom-line is that the open, standard-based approach generates money for everyone in the value chain — from cable operators, to device makers, to application developers, to content producers. Looking ahead, Tru2way technology is set to become the cable and consumer electronics industries’ best story of 2009 — and it will only get better as more households begin converting to Tru2way enabled TVs and set-top boxes.