Sony + Tru2way = No More Set-top Boxes?

Sony has joined forces with six of the top cable companies in the U.S. to adopt tru2way technology in its TVs, thus eliminating the need for a set-top box when accessing television and other interactive services. Apple, Netflix, Sezmi and anyone else working on a set-top box should be nervous.

Sony isn’t the first TV manufacturer to jump on the tru2way bandwagon. Samsung, Panasonic and LG have all signed licensing agreements to use the technology in TV sets that will go on sale as soon as the upcoming holiday season. Sony’s participation is a little different from those previous arrangements as it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Cablevision and Bright House Networks that commits everyone involved to using tru2way, sets certain milestones and even allows consumer electronics companies to be more active in establishing the tru2way standard.

Combined, those cable systems reach 82 percent of all U.S. cable subscribers. Now that is an install base.

An open java-based platform, tru2way allows developers to create all manner of interactive applications (like games, or eBay notifications, or interactive guides) for the television. The standard allows developers to write the application once, and have it run on any cable system.

The technology is being rolled out throughout the year on set-top boxes, but tru2way TV sets from Sony and other manufacturers means that cable boxes could become a thing of the past. Plug your connection directly into your TV and get your HD, DVR, programming guide, VOD and more all in one place.

I’ve written before that cable and satellite companies have a leg up in the set-top space because they are already in the home, and agreements with big, brand name companies like Sony will just accelerate their lead. TiVo is smart to move into licensing its interface as there will be no need for its box. And with studios like Warner Bros. releasing all of its movies on VOD day-and-date with DVD, what will you need an Apple TV for?

Of course, the cable industry could wind up being its own worst enemy, bungling the implementation, confusing customers or charging exorbitant fees. But if people are at all like me, laziness will trump all that and we’ll just use what’s already plugged into our TVs.

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