OpenCable

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OpenCable is a set of hardware and software specifications under development in the United States by CableLabs to "define the next-generation digital consumer device" for the cable television industry. The consumer-facing brand tru2way was introduced in January, 2008.

OpenCable uses SCTE standards for the video, transport and various interface requirements, but also adds a requirement for a Java based software interpreter to support the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP). It also requires a decryption system for protected content employing CableCARDs or the proposed software-based Downloadable Conditional Access System (DCAS).

The goal is to create a common hardware/software standard for digital cable television within the U.S., hence promoting competition among licensed device manufacturers, while at the same time making it improbable that any one software company dominates digital television.

Tru2way is the brand name for interactive digital cable services delivered over the cable video network, for example interactive program guides, interactive ads, games, chat, web browsing, and t-commerce. The brand also appears as “<tru2way>” and is used to market cable services, applications, and devices that support the tru2way cable architecture. Tru2way is the successor, consumer-focused, name for technology known as OpenCable. Major cable operators have committed to deploy support for the tru2way platform in service areas covering more than 90 million U.S. homes by the end of 2008. As of December, 2008, Comcast and Panasonic are offering services and a limited number of consumer products that support Tru2way in the Chicago and Denver MSAs.

CableLabs, the industry’s research and development arm, licenses the brand to cable companies and cable programmers that deliver tru2way applications and services, as well as consumer electronics (CE) manufacturers that build devices that support such applications and services. Use of the mark on CE devices requires CableLabs certification testing for conformance to the tru2way specifications (also known as the OpenCable Host 2.1 Specifications). Tru2way includes a middleware technology that may be built into televisions, set-top boxes, and other devices. The technology enables cable companies and other interactive application developers to “write” applications once and see them run successfully on any device that supports the tru2way architecture. With tru2way technology, consumers can access interactive digital cable programming, including video-on-demand and pay-per-view content, without the need for a cable operator-supplied set-top box. The tru2way technology is capable of supporting all cable services now delivered to consumers via leased set top boxes, as well as future services written to the tru2way platform.

Digital rights management[edit]

DRM is implemented using both Java and a pluggable decryption card. This would work much like DirecTV's encryption system. When a crack of the current encryption system in use becomes widespread, a new card can be sent out to consumers and a new encryption system will be employed. Putting portions of the restrictions management in the Java interpreter allows greater flexibility in billing.

At the present time (circa 2007), the OpenCable specification(s) do not make any use of a Java interpreter for the purpose of performing or managing the deployed conditional access (CA) systems, of which there are two primary types: (1) integrated or embedded, and (2) CableCARD based.

Also under development is the newer software-based Downloadable Conditional Access System (DCAS). It is hoped that DCAS will eliminate the need for a CableCARD.

Increased competition[edit]

In the current market a cable operator is locked into either Motorola or Scientific Atlanta for 10–20 years when they make the capital investment to use either system for their digital cable operations. With OpenCable a consumer can use an MPEG-2 decoder from either company and the cable company can switch between the system at only the cost of the decryption card for each consumer and the backend costs. The decryption cards will probably license for $10 to $20, much less than the $50 for a simple decoder or $500 for a full featured digital video recorder.

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