The news at CEDIA that CableCARD will now be open to all has
got everyone worked up about Microsoft getting things right and that the
platform is back where it needs to be.
However, while the news of CableCARD getting unlocked from OEM only
machines is fantastic I’m not sure it chances much in the marketplace.
First of all, AMD
appears to be out of the marketplace which is actually a much bigger deal
than people might think. While this
hasn’t been confirmed, reports out of CEDIA showed that AMD didn’t have a lot
to say about CableCARD in general. Most
likely the only reason we are seeing updated firmware for current OCURs is
because AMD never actually wrote the firmware for the cards, Digital Keystone
did. Clearly competition
is the best way to drive prices down, so AMD not focusing on the market isn’t
a good thing.
The big news it Ceton
will actually be releasing an MOCUR for retail consumption. This isn’t the BOCR
I have talked about in the past (CableLabs still hasn’t published any specs
for that), but it is the first MOCUR. My question here is what kind of distribution
will Ceton be able to get? I’m not
exactly expecting the card to show up at my local Best Buy. If CableCARD tuners aren’t going to be
available at brick-and-mortar retailers the concept of the market opening up
dramatically is still slim. Maybe Dell
and HP get back into the market now that OEM BIOS isn’t required, but they seem
to have a bad taste in their mouth from previous experiences plus selling the
tuners with new PCs gets us right back to where we were before.
Price is another issue when we talk about expanding the
current marketplace. Preliminary reports
are that Ceton is currently targeting a price between $300-$600, which would be
a huge upgrade from current AMD pricing, but this is still very costly when you
consider 46 out of the 65 PCs Best Buy lists on their website cost $750 or
less. Without a big retail partner Ceton
will surely not be an AMD-sided production run which means prices are likely to
be higher simply because economics of scale doesn’t work. Maybe if/when Hauppauge
ships a CableCARD tuner the distribution side will be fixed (however, I don’t
believe the HD PVR has retail distribution either).
There is still the possibility that Microsoft
would market this for the living room, but that’s still highly
unlikely. Trust me, the lack of cable
HDTV isn’t the one thing that stopped Microsoft from ever marketing Media
Center and Extender’s, and it surely won’t change that. Microsoft isn’t likely to ever market Media
Center or Extender’s, or any pairing of the two.
It is no doubt the Media Center community will jump on this
change, but do you believe Media Center is now in a better place to expand in
the marketplace now that CableCARD is not locked to an OEM machine?