The first generation of CableCards was pretty much a bust, as cable companies didn't want anything to do with the devices, which could replace a set-top box by being installed in TVs or home theater PCs (HTPCs). The disinterest was due to the fact that the technology only allowed communication in one direction: from the cable company to the user. That meant lucrative extras like video on demand weren't possible, which limited consumer enthusiasm as well.
But tinkering with the CableCard concept hasn't stopped, and version 2.0, known officially as tru2way, has been demoed at CES and other major trade shows. As its name suggests, this latest version provides the interactive experience that CableCards didn't offer in the past, and cable companies like Comcast have been on board with tru2way. Finally, the first tru2way HDTVs are ready to go on sale, as Panasonic will be introducing two plasma sets with the technology later this month in stores in Chicago and Denver. To go with this launch, Comcast will be providing tru2way digital cable service in those markets. Additional cities are slated to join the fun in upcoming months.
Both the Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ80Q ($1,599.95) and TH-50PZ80Q ($2,299.95) are 1080p plasmas with 1,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ranges. They carry a $300 price premium over their non-tru2way-enabled, but otherwise similarly spec'd, TH-42PZ80U and TH-50PZ80U siblings. But with these new sets, cable subscribers can eschew the set-top box and still get on-demand programming from Comcast. Of course, you give up your cable box's DVR features, though if you already own a TiVo you might not care. If tru2way gains any traction, you may see compatible HDTVs with built-in hard drives to handle recording duties, and HTPCs with tru2way cards are on the way.
Does tru2way technology excite you at all? Can you see yourself buying a tru2way TV or PC in the future? Share your thoughts in the Talkback section.