tru2way is here, meaning not only at The Cable Show, but also in deployment.

"It’s been a long road …. This is a great milestone to sit here and say we made it," Sherisse Hawkins, vice president of software engineering for Time Warner Cable, said Wednesday during the panel, "A New Way There: Cable’s Interactive Agenda."

Time Warner has surpassed the 2 million mark with OCAP-ready and tru2way devices, while Mark Hess, senior vice president of engineering for Comcast, reported that his company should have the majority of its markets ready to handle tru2way retail products by mid-year. (For more, click here.)

"All the companies you see here (on the panel) and the entire cable industry and our CE partners are committed to it," Hess said. (For more, click here.)

tru2way opens the door for multiple set-top box vendors and CE players to enter the cable space and provides a common application platform, said Jeff Chen, senior vice president, advanced technology, Bright House Networks. "We have had, as an industry, very little choice … CE companies spend $2 billion doing R&D, and we want to be a part of that ecosystem."

"(tru2way) will enable application developers," said Steve Necessary, vice president, video product development and support, Cox Communications. "We will find out what the new, cool applications are." Instead of needing a hit out of the ballpark with a new application, he added, an operator can shoot for a "solid double or single."

Chen preferred a "spaghetti on the wall" analogy. "(We) will try to do quite a few things. Some applications may stick, and some may not."

And Hess, perhaps not wanting to be left out with the comparative descriptions, resorted to the age-old story of the chicken and the egg, with CE manufacturers not wanting to build TV sets and set-tops until the networks are ready. "This year will be a year of muscling out products and convincing retailers this is a good idea," he said.

Cox has developed a next generation user interface built on the tru2way platform that will be available first in retail devices in its markets and then deployed on high-end DVRs and leased set-top boxes. These types of applications are "predictable," Necessary said. "I can’t wait for those I don’t expect."

Other interactive options

The panelists also demonstrated prototypes for enhanced TV applications using EBIF. Hess, for example, showed interactive applications for car shopping, voting on reality shows, and enhancing cooking shows with recipe information.

The EBIF user agent can "reside quite nicely" in a large base of set-top boxes, so there is a larger target for ETV applications, at least initially, Necessary said. The tradeoff is the robustness of the environment and the ability to access other elements in the hardware platform.

In addition, even though the EBIF user agent has a small footprint, it is not zero. "There are a class of boxes that are filled up with applications," Necessary said, noting that the question becomes whether to leave these boxes behind or do something different to get EBIF.

– Monta Monaco Hernon

Read more news and analysis on Communications Technology‘s Web site at www.cable360.net/ct/news/.

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