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S-A Ships New Explorer 2100 Digital Boxes

Scientific-Atlanta Inc. said it has started to ship its new line of Explorer 2100 and 3100 advanced digital set-tops in mass quantities as it hopes to usher in a new age of advanced, interactive-television services for cable operators.

S-A did not disclose how many of the new boxes it has shipped so far, nor did it divulge unit pricing. Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and Adelphia Communications Corp. are among S-A's largest cable set-top box customers.

Earlier this month, S-A said it shipped 1.03 million Explorer units and received 1.2 million first-quarter box orders. That marked the first financial quarter in which S-A's digital box shipments exceeded 1 million units.

"We began shipping [the new boxes] last quarter in substantial volume," said Ken Klaer, vice president and general manager of marketing and business development for S-A's subscriber networks division.

S-A's goal is to swap legacy digital boxes in the field for the new models, said Klaer, to keep pace with demand for more advanced features and applications.

"We have to spin our platform about every nine months," he said.

To boost ITV capabilities, S-A's 2100 and 3100 set-tops feature 130-megahertz processors, a "next-generation" digital decoder, and double the cache memory of its prior line of set-top gear. They are also 25-percent smaller than existing set-tops currently on the market, as DVD players, personal video recorders and other consumer electronics gear cause available entertainment center real estate to dwindle.

S-A's new equipment also includes a universal serial bus port on the front panel, providing "plug-and-play" connections for digital cameras and camcorders.

S-A's more advanced 6000 box is currently involved in a number of consumer tests. The company expects to announce more news on its progress before next month's Western Show in Los Angeles, Klaer said, adding that the 6000 should reach volume shipments sometime next year.

That high-end box will include a hard-disk drive for personal video recording functions, an additional tuner for an embedded Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS)-based cable modem and a second processor to support multiple operating systems such as Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE.