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by Mike Zazaian September 7, 2006 - 12:44pm, No Comments

TiVo Series3

Tivo’s dual Cable-Card solution promises to clean up your entertainment center, and your wallet.

Despite a delayed early-2006 release date, Tivo seems to be back on schedule with its new Series3 Tuner. Several TiVo Series3 units have already been distributed to broadcasters and media around the world for a final stage of testing, and should be hitting shelves soon.

Each new TiVo Series3 will feature two highly controversial CableCard 1.0 cards, which allows users to record up to two channels of HD entertainment at a time, that is, assuming you have the right TiVo subscription level. The Series3 will also include 4HD tuners, 2 analog tuners, and a slew of other goodies that TiVo users are already used to.

CableCards were originally devised by Congress in 1996 as a way to create standardization among cable providers, and to increase market competition. The intent here was to allow consumers to use any standardized receiver (a Cable Box, or a TiVo), regardless of the company, with any other company’s service. CableCards, developed after the decree by congress, could then be inserted into any receiver to allow the service provider control over ther user’s subscription.

CableCard

Problem is, the technologies are so expensive to develop, maintain and implement that they’ve become a pariah in the industry. As such, the cable companies are currently engaged in ongoing anti-CableCard legal battles, in which they suggest a simpler software interface can do the same job with less hassle. Nate Anderson at Ars Technica remarks on the difficulty CableCard technology:

They cannot display an interactive program guide (though they can display a basic, noninteractive guide to what’s showing), they do not provide pay-per-view options, video on demand is out, and any interactive services (such as Time Warner’s “eBay on TV” service currently in beta down in Texas) are a no go. Worse yet, hardware with a CableCARD v1.0 slot will not be compatible with CableCARD v2.0 devices, which will be two-way. Or, more exactly, it will be compatible, but only in unidirectional mode, which means that it will get no benefit from the newer card.

While TiVo is using them as a means to provide dual-channel HD-Service (and replace your digital cable box), they’re also trying to court cable companies into continuing support of the much-beligned technology. TiVo is currently running a pro-CableCard ad campaign directed at cable companies, implying that if they support two channels of HD programming, people might just want to buy twice as much HD cable.

The problem with the whole fiasco is that TiVo and cable have such a love-hate relationship that it’s hard to say where competition ends and synergy begins. For an industry that makes $2.5 billion a year on box rental alone, it’s going to be tough for TiVo to convince the Cable companies to dump money into supporting a competing product. Then again, it’s impossible to judge how much of a boon TiVo Series3 will give to cable providers’ programming.

[via DailyTech]