The International Consumer Electronics Show is all about promoting new products and making bold announcements. While the latter may take some time to develop, here’s a rundown of a few cable-related products that were at the show, as well as some that the competition may embrace.

On the heels of last year’s CES announcement with Comcast on Open Cable Application Platform (OCAP)-enabled set-top boxes, Panasonic said at this show that it would test an interactive digital cable-ready HD plasma TV with Comcast. The 58-inch plasma TVs are based on OCAP specifications and are slated for testing this year with deployments following up in 2008.

"OCAP gives you the ability to write an application once, and then it works on all of the set-top boxes," said Richard Strabel, a vice president with Panasonic. "We believe OCAP is the way to go for portability in the United States. It’s good for cable, and it’s good for the consumers."

With the two-way interactivity of OCAP, customers will be able to take part in features such as e-commerce and gaming, while using just one remote for their home theaters, TV sets and DVRs. Unlike legacy set-top boxes, OCAP boxes can have new information or applications ported to them.

Last year, Samsung announced it had an OCAP-enabled TV in a Time Warner Cable trial, but didn’t provide an update on the trial at this year’s show.

As for Panasonic’s set-top box deal from last year, Strabel said Comcast will start deploying them this summer and that GuideWorks was still working on the electronic program guide.

"Charter, Cox, Comcast and Cablevision are using our OCAP stack tools for the reference platform," Strabel said. "We’re providing the tools and the reference platform for them, and then they’ll get the headend to work with the reference platform."

Panasonic also unveiled its Globarange series of hybrid two-line cordless telephones with VoIP broadband technology that allows the caller to place a free call to any other Globarange phone user. The two Globarange models enable calls to be made and received via both the VoIP line and regular landline connection from up to eight cordless handsets. The phones will be launched in 12 countries at the end of the month. Set-top boxes Motorola‘s venerable line of DCT set-top boxes is set to be replaced by the new DCH (the "h" is for host) set-top boxes that were unveiled at CES.

With the Federal Communications Commission‘s July deadline for separable security on the horizon, both Motorola and Scientific Atlanta showed set-top boxes with removable CableCards.

Motorola also announced it had expanded a previous agreement with Comcast for a multi-year purchase of set-top boxes, but didn’t say how many boxes were included in the deal.

Under the agreement announced at CES, Comcast will purchase several set-top models from Motorola, including dual-tuner, HD DVRs and all-digital cable receivers. These next-generation digital set-tops will support Comcast’s Residential Network Gateway (RNG) specification along with the OCAP initiative. Several of the models will support Motorola’s "Follow Me TV" solution and Motorola’s Linux-Java software platform as well as the models with CableCards.

Verizon is also using Motorola’s Follow Me technology for its multiple DVR deployments in its next generation FiOS solution, as well as for other interactive features.

Scientific Atlanta also demonstrated its multi-stream CableCard and a range of set-tops, from standard-definition digital-only to dual-tuner HD DVRs, as well as software solutions for both systems and clients.

CableCard enabled set-tops currently shipping for testing include the 8300C, 8300HDC, 8240C, 8240HDC, 4250C, 4250HDC, 4240C and 4240HDC.

Samsung had a low-key demo of two set-top boxes that weren’t mentioned in any of the company’s press releases.

Samsung’s hybrid IP set-top box is MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and H.264 compliant. It uses "various CAS and DRM" support and has an embedded Samsung browser that will let the customer browse either a Web portal or the public Internet based upon how the operator chooses to deploy it. According to a booth spokesman, the hybrid set-top box is designed for telco, cable, satellite and terrestrial operators.

While the hybrid set-top box uses Samsung software, the HD IP set-top box uses software from NDS. The HD set-top box is also MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and H.264 compliant. Both boxes are slated to be deployed later this year in Russia and Italy.

Samsung also showed, for the first time, an OCAP-enabled HD DVR in Las Vegas that has dual QAM tuners and multi-stream CableCard support, as well as supporting MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and H.264. Next-gen FiOS At CES, Verizon rolled out the next generation of its FiOS service, which includes an interactive media guide that lets customers search TV programming, movies, Internet videos, music, photos and games. Additional enhancements include the ability to remotely program DVRs from a subscriber’s Web-enabled PC. The company will extend that same feature to customers’ cell phones later this year, but didn’t say when or what vendors’ handheld devices.

New Jersey will have the first FiOS customers to receive the FiOS TV applications, but Joe Ambeault, Verizon’s director, interactive services, said customers in Verizon’s other 10 states will have the new applications by mid-year. – Mike Robuck

The Daily



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