Sony Embraces tru2way

Sony Electronics said Monday that it signed a memorandum of understanding to market products compatible with the cable industry’s initiative to build a common two-way TV platform, tru2way, based on the Java computer code.

Sony’s MOU is with the six largest cable companies -- Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems and Bright House Networks -- which it said serve 82% of all cable subscribers. Thus, Sony will be able to manufacture plug-and-play devices in large scale, given the fact that those cable subscribers are a pool of buyers.

“A national plug-and play digital-cable standard for interactive-TV receivers, recorders and other products that is transferable and viable wherever you live is ideal for today’s mobile society,” said Edgar Tu, Sony Electronics’ senior vice president of TV operations for America, in a statement.

Sony didn’t mention any specific electronics products, but it did cite HDTV video as being on its agenda.

tru2way -- which was developed by industry consortium Cable Television Laboratories -- aims to inject Internet-like interactivity to cable TV. By coalescing on a common and open platform, cable operators hope to attract multiple electronics firms to produce cable products, thus driving down hardware prices.

At this month’s The Cable Show ’08, next-generation interactive products and services were a hot topic of conversation, with a Panasonic North America executive praising tru2way as being important for the consumer-electronics industry, as well as cable.

“The agreement will encourage the development and distribution of interactive and high-value digital content” that can plug into cable without set-top boxes, Sony said. “Key elements of the agreement relate to the deployment of a platform for ‘write once, run anywhere’ applications and to the incorporation of secure digital interfaces that protect consumers' home recording rights, along with copyright owners' rights to secure their digital content.”

The Sony press release also quoted Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, praising the deal as pro-consumer and providing “broader access to innovative competitive cable-ready navigation devices from commercial retailers.”