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Cisco Preps Linux-Based Tru2way Cable Set-Tops

Cisco Systems is using Linux open-source software to power the Explorer 8700, the next generation of its flagship cable DVR and set-tops designed for CableLabs' Tru2way interactive middleware.

The vendor expects to deliver units of the new box for beta testing to cable customers by this summer. The Explorer 8700 set-tops have faster processor speeds and a smaller physical footprint than the current 8600 series, according to Cisco, but aside from those general details the company is keeping mum.

"We're holding off on releasing [additional information] at this time," a Cisco spokeswoman said.

Cox Communications is among the operators deploying Cisco's Tru2way-based set-tops. The MSO's HD-optimized Trio guide, developed by NDS, runs on the Cisco Axiom OCAP middleware.

The Explorer 8700 has an Ethernet jack, along with coax input/output and support for Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) home-networking, according to a reference guide that was posted on the Cisco website. The box supports up to 1080p HD video and includes the mandatory CableCard slot.

The 8700 series are DOCSIS set-top gateways, which use a cable modem for "out-of-band messaging" between a set-top controller and the customer-premises equipment to deliver guide and application data. Cisco submitted the Explorer 8700 for testing in CableLabs' Certification Wave 79 and the unit was approved in mid-December.

The Explorer 8700 is not directly part of Cisco's Videoscape initiative, which is aimed at tying together Web video and services with traditional TV.

In recent quarters, Cisco's cable set-top box sales have hit the skids as operators add digital subscribers at a slower pace and competitors have grabbed away market share. Its set-top revenue fell 29% for the quarter ended Jan. 29, 2011, representing an annual run rate of $1.6 billion -- down from $2.0 billion last fall.