Cable operators are days away from a plug and play deadline that’s expected to pass relatively smoothly. As of Thurs, cable companies must provide an HD set-top with a 1394 port to any consumer who requests one. The expectation is that very few customers will (after all, most are struggling to understand HD basics), but there may be some CE makers double-checking that cable is in compliance. S-A [SFA] vp, strategy and product planning Bob Van Orden says 1394 is not a particularly good digital interface for set-tops, as boxes will lose some functionality (they won’t be able to transmit IPG graphics, VOD interfaces, just video). He believes the market is moving toward making DVI the digital interface of choice. CEA is less keen on DVI, as its uncompressed connection doesn’t allow recording or home networking. "A lot of manufacturers are including both because it will take some time before" one is decided on, CEA’s Jenny Miller says. The latest HDTV Guide’s list of HD sets shows about 1/4 having 1394, while half have DVI (some have both 1394 and DVI). The remaining 1/4 have an analog interface. Regardless of which interface eventually wins, both CEA and cable recognize the importance of meeting Thursday’s deadline. "Even if it weren’t a legal issue, it’s kind of a good faith thing because it’s part of the plug and play negotiations," Van Orden says. "It would be a bad thing if one of the rare times [CE and cable] came together" the deadline wasn’t met. If a customer requests a 1394 set-top, operators will have to either switch out their box for one with a 1394 port or download the necessary software for existing 1394 ports. S-A 1394 software was approved just this month, so customers can download it for existing 1394 ports. The port is standard on SA’s 4200 HD box, but optional on the 3250 (and most MSOs chose not to take it). Motorola [MOT] sent out a software update at the beginning of Jan that lets operators activate the 1394 port on its boxes (the port’s standard on its 6200 series). Customers with the older DCT 2000 HD boxes will have to get a new box. The big plug and play deadline is July 1, when operators must provide CableCARDS to customers who request them for their 1-way digital-ready TVs.

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