Mobility is a buzzword emanating from this week’s CES-related press releases.

That theme serves as a reminder that one of the initial goals of what used to be called (before today) CableLabs‘ OpenCable technology initiative was to comply with federal regulatory directives to give cable video subscribers the opportunity to purchase a set-top box and carry it with them as they moved from one house – and one cable operator – to another.

The means for doing so were PCMCIA form-factor cards that, as of July 2007 (with few exceptions), are part of all new set-top deployments. That operators for the most part have bolted these cards in place speaks volumes about the actual – marginal – demand for this capability.

But maybe operators will find greater demand for another kind of set-top being previewed this week in Las Vegas that meets the need for a more common experience of mobility. Leveraging what CableLabs is calling no longer the OpenCable Platform but rather "tru2way," Panasonic and Comcast jointly announced a portable DVR/DVD player that promises to allow Comcast customers to record programming and "take it with them wherever they go."

In case anyone missed the obvious application of this P (portable) DVR, the two companies note at the close of their joint press that the AnyPlay P-DVR TZ-LC100 "comes with a 12 VDC adapter for automotive use."

Expected to be available to consumers in early 2009, the device also features 60 GB of recording capacity, an 8.5-inch folding LCD screen and a docking station, which acts as the set-top box. More mobility and blurred lines Meanwhile, Motorola announced a pocket-sized, DVBH-compatible personal media player called the DH01 as a way to "extend … the consumer TV experience to anytime and anywhere for live TV, on-demand clips and programs saved on a DVR."

Mobility also figured in Motorola’s announcement of a new piece of WiMAX customer premises equipment, the CPEi100, a single data-port, 2.5 GHz "plug and play" device designed to sit on the desktop between a computer and a WiMAX network.

Set-top models announced by the company that acquired Scientific Atlanta, aka Cisco, also seem to be on the move. If not mobile themselves, the 8500 HDC DVR series certainly supports device docking and storage.

Moreover, what Cisco Service Provider Group CTO Bob McIntyre underscored in statement was that this set-top family is a rival to the family computer. "The 8500HDC DVR … has new features that surpass the PC you bought two years ago."

The line between computer and set-top gets fuzzier still with the announcement by Microsoft and BT Vision (the British Telecom IPTV unit that promises "digital TV on your terms") that the Xbox 360 would enable BT Vision customers to receive high-definition gaming, television and movies through a single console. – Jonathan Tombes

The Daily


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