Missed Opportunities? Is cable getting too big? Are Comcast and Time Warner Cable too big to take any chances except the easy sure thing? I’m wondering out loud (albeit in "print") because of a story in BusinessWeek (8/20-27) by Cliff Edwards in his "Tech&You "column that reminded me of just how many true breakthroughs the other guys (meaning satellite, telco, computer and other groups of full time and semi-competitors) are bringing to market… and a lot of time with products that cable has had the chance to "own." It’s a big list. One of the latest blown chances: the breakthrough remote from Logitech built on Hillcrest technologies… once demonstrated at the NCTA show in San Francisco. With no cable takers. The Hillcrest remote is as cool to use as the wii controllers. Others? Besides the cool stuff that NBCU is doing via satellite (!) for the U.S. Open? Lots:

  • TiVo: instead, here come the work-around and the reverse-engineered versions (OK, give TWC credit for taking the DVR concept into the next steps of usage and ad-friendly territory). First time I saw TiVo was years ago at a CES show in Las Vegas … and the DVR in the EchoStar booth was of great interest to the now-retired John Billock, who was walking the floor with me.
  • Agile TV: voice activated remote controls.
  • Slingbox: place shifting on top of time shifting.
  • Akimbo and/or totalVID: the set-top box as Internet video retriever/player.
  • Interoperability: complete cross-platform seamless communications (OK, easier for at&t to do this in U-Verse and for Verizon in FiOS than for cable… but we’re going to have to figure out how… slow Pivot or not).

Any one of these innovations might have set cable apart… and, along with broadband, stymied competitors. Sure, DVRs are everywhere… but we were followers. It’s part of why venture capitalists don’t back many, if any, innovative "cable" products. Doesn’t have to be that way… remember when we were the innovators? Random Notes

  • Diversity Week: Time to start making definitive plans as you get ready to go to NAMIC and Kaitz (honoring George Bodenheimer) events next month. For instance, I always look forward to Tuesday night and A&E’s Rockefeller Center cocktails followed by a great theater event (this year features David Hyde Pierce in "Curtains")… one of the better social events of the year. The only thing is, I miss the after-show drinks as the next morning always brings the very early and always interesting CTAM New York Blue Ribbon Breakfast. This year has Will Richmond moderating a panel with Next New Nets’ Herb Scannel, Google’s David Eun, Cox’s Dallas Clement, Comcast’s Matt Strauss and Discovery’s Bruce Campbell. (Details @ http://www.ctamny.com/event_BRB2007.htm).
  • Speaking of NAMIC: Always great panels, but don’t miss our sister pub’s EMMA (Excellence in Multi-Cultural Marketing) Award Mon afternoon at 3:45 (skip the concurrent session; all you need to do is sign on to Facebook to learn about social marketing)… and don’t miss Anderson Cooper at the luncheon on Tuesday.
  • Trivia? Sure, during "Cable Days" in October at the Cable Center the day before the real cable Hall of Fame dinner. I think questioner Jim Honiotes should ask me for some questions to use… Bet I could stump everyone. The first answer—will it be Jeopardy! style?

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