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Old 03-07-2007, 11:31 AM
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oddjob oddjob is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Chicago, IL
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Interactive Digital Cable Ready

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There's a new acronym emerging that we want to give you a heads-up on. This new label will start to appear on HDTVs, in off-the-shelf DVRs, and maybe even HTPCs in the near future. It's called 'iDCR' and stands for 'Interactive Digital Cable Ready. When you see this new moniker on the front of your new TV you'll know that the TV has the built in ability to do anything your Cable Set-Top-Box can do, and maybe even more ... but we'll get into that later. That means you'll be able to watch all the standard definition and high definition digital cable channels, even the encrypted ones, without the need for an STB.

And, of course, we can't miss that little i at the beginning of the acronym. That tells us our new TV will also support all the interactivity features of digital cable such as on screen programming guides, pay-per-view and video on demand. From what we can tell, iDCR is just a fancy marketing term for the emerging OCAP or Consumer OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) standard developed by CableLabs. It makes sense, though. People understand cable ready, they get digital cable ready, now we just add interactive digital cable ready and we're all set. That's a whole lot easier than trying to explain to your subscribers what the new OpenCable Application Platform will do for them.

But what will the new OCAP standard do? At it's core, the OCAP is like an operating system for cable ready devices. Think of it like a special version of Windows or Linux, made just for TVs that want to display digital cable programs. Of course, being an operating system, it provides the way for application developers to create programs that will use the hardware and core software in the TV. Vendors will be able to create their own custom applications that tie in directly to the digital cable service. These programs might offer interactive TV functionality, eCommerce capabilities, or access to your cable account, right through the TV.

Depending on who gets their way, home users may be able to add or remove any program they want on the OCAP enabled device. This is what the CEA is hoping for. You could add the HT Guys eCommerce application that that whenever you see a product advertised on TV, you could just click a button and buy it from the HT Guys store. The Cable companies, on the other hand, would rather have complete control of the system, so that they can block access to applications that may compete with services they offer. Of course, our belief is that competition is always a good thing, so opeing the platform up for third party applications would be great. It would force the Cable companies to produce applications that are better than what one could get elsewhere. Otherwise, if they have you locked in, why would they care?

Regardless of who wins that debate, not having to pay a ton of money every month to lease an STB for every room is a wonderful concept. And it's about to come true. Samsung recently announced the HL-S5686C Open Cable Application Platform (OCAP) compliant DLP HDTV. The set will include iDCP and is available for Comcast subscribers (meaning it has been tested and known to work) in New York. The service should be expanding to other Comcast service areas soon. Samsung will also be selling an iDCR set top box, in the same markets, for those who already own the HDTV, but want an OCAP capable STB without having to lease it from Comcast. No word yet on pricing.
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