It’s about frigging time

Jeezus H. Cable, what took them so long? The Wall Street Journal reports that TVs may soon be able to get TV without those damned cable boxes that do so little for so much with such bother:

Sony Corp. and six of the biggest U.S. cable operators announced an agreement to create digital televisions capable of receiving cable service without a set-top box.

Sony signed a pact with Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc., Cox Communications, Charter Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and Bright House Networks to develop technology that will allow consumers to eliminate set-top boxes, yet still receive basic as well as advanced cable services, such as pay-per-view movies.

The new technological standard should enable a new generation of TVs to include video-on-demand, digital video recording, interactive programming guides, and other services, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association said Tuesday. By eliminating the set-top box, cable companies can simplify installation and reduce costs, while consumers can worry about one less component in their home theater systems. . . .

Sony and the cable operators will adopt a Java-based application called tru2way as the nationwide interactive standard, which will allow for the manufacture of new “plug-and-play” interactive devices that can be used with TV sets.

The technology could also make it easier for consumers to receive the full range of cable-based services on other devices, such as laptops, MP3 players, and cellphones.

It’s not as if this took a single technological breakthrough. It simply took cable companies realizing that they make it too fucking difficult to get the service they offer and it’s getting far easier for us to watch TV via the internet (witness the incredible popularity of the BBC iPlayer in the UK). The cable box should have been dead at least a decade ago. The only thing that kept it alive was cable companies’ business model built around control and restriction. But you can no longer make a business on telling us what we can’t do.

  • Good news for customers and bad news for set top box companies

  • Liz

    Would this be the same as the wireless tv (well, except for the power cord) that has been rumored about? Or would you still have the cable going into your TV?

  • Tim

    1. What happened to CableCard?
    2. Set-top box manufacturers will morph into circuitry providers who provide the tru2way hardware to consumer electronics manufacturers, similar to the way 3rd parties provide the bluetooth in your laptop

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  • Jeremy C.

    Tim’s right … this sounds like a CableCard to me. I remember them being hyped big time as being available in next generation TVs but that never seemed to materialize over these last few years. Only thing I’ve heard about them recently was when we bought a TiVO. The later generation versions of TiVO have CableCard slots so you don’t have to have a box or those annoying IR transmitters to control it. We got the original one so we still have the box but I had called my local Comcast office to see if the CableCards would be available if we needed them and they said they are for sure. I guess there’s some reason TV manufactures aren’t using them more.

  • Freeview – the free-to-air digital service in the UK that required a box from its launch in October 2002, quickly morphed into a feature in TVs such that now most TVs sold have Freeview built into it. Five years from a set-top box to an integrated feature. So it can be done.

    There’s something to be written about the juxtaposition of business models between Freeview and cable on the one side and the technology on the other, i.e. you’re right, there is no technology breakthrough required, it’s mainly about politics and control.

    Plus you can use iPlayer through your Wii….