07 January 2008

Cable TV standardization

Some months ago, I had written this article regarding cable, set top boxes, and standards. So, when Forbes posted this item. According to the article:

Facing pressure from regulators, the cable TV industry plans to make good on a promise to standardize its technology and open the door to televisions and other gadgets that don't need cable boxes to receive video-on-demand programs and other interactive services.

An industry initiative, to be renamed "tru2way" after a decade in the works, is expected to allow electronics manufacturers to make TVs and other gear that will work regardless of cable provider. By making devices compatible, the standard also could encourage the development of new services and features that rely on two-way communication over the cable network.

Note that Engadget and CED are framing this as merely a rebranding of "OpenCable". Comcast CEO Brian Roberts is claiming that there is more to it (from the Forbes article):

Our business model has changed completely, from a closed, proprietary model to an open architecture that will work across cable companies - not just across Comcast. That was a Herculean job to accomplish.

Suppose we took Roberts' view at face value. Is it reasonable to imagine the industry model evolving from a vertically integrated "customer experience" to a "platform-based" one? That is, is it reasonable to imagine that the initial innovation in an industry would require a high degree of control, so that specific investments in physical infrastructure could be coupled with specific investments in "software"?

In fact, we have seen this initially in telephony:

  • The introduction of automatic switching had to be closely coupled with end user devices.
  • The transitition to a "common battery" for handsets (from locally powered devices) also had to be closely coordinated. It is interesting that we seem to be gradually transititioning back to the locally powered paradigm, but that's another story.
Are we seeing this in wireless as well, with Verizon announcing the opening of their wireless network?

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