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Sony Offers Non-CableCard TVs

Sony has reportedly signed an agreement with six major cable operators to develop new two-way TVs that offer cable services without need of a set-top.

Unlike today’s CableCard sets, which can display HD and SD cable programming without a set-top, the new Sony TVs would offer such services as Digital Video Recording and Video on Demand. The current CableCard sets would require a separate set-top for those services.

In announcing the agreement, the cable operators and Sony urged other TV makers to participate in the program. Panasonic and Samsung have already announced plans for 2-way TVs.

The six cable operators that have signed the agreement are Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, Cablevision, Charter and Bright House Networks.

The 2-way TVs would answer consumer demands for less cluttered living rooms by eliminating the set-top. However, it would also poses problems for current cable set-top makers Motorola and Cisco. Dave Clark, a Cisco director for product strategy said cable set-tops will likely still continue, although their purpose will change.

“It’s going to be providing the functionality coming into the house to be able to decode High-Definition content, move it around the house, and ultimately, out to other places — your hotel room, or what have you,” Clark said.

DVR service TiVo, which has aggressively pushed the CableCard concept, could also benefit from the 2-way sets. However, viewers interested in video recording could use the 2-way set rather than buy a TiVo set-top at retail.

Sony and the cable operators said their agreement also calls for uniform standards for new interactive services, which could lead to greater innovation.