CableCARD Revolution To Rock Your TV World? Not Ours.


Beet.TV’s Andy Plesser is jazzed about “CableCARDS”, those little cards that your cable company is now by law forced to incorporate into your cable box. The cards unscramble your cable-company’s TV signals, and you’ll eventually be able to rent them independently from the box (which tells your TV which channel to display). Eventually, you’ll be also able to shove the cards into a host of other TV-related devices, from DVRs to gameboxes to the TVs themselves.  For the convergence-obsessed, this is tantamount to a TV revolution.

Take Forrester’s James McQuivey, who is so excited about cableCARD technology that he describes it as a “silent bomb”:

“The CableCard is a silent bomb, waiting to go off. In the short run, most consumers will have no idea what it does or why they would want it. But as the devices they are already buying make a CableCard slot standard, consumers will one day wake up and realise that they are in a much better position to dictate program choices than they have ever been in the past. This will have two effects: a few million consumers will try out CableCards in the next 5 years, but also, the cable companies will work frantically to compete with CableCard devices by offering better services, tighter integration of phone and TV services (think: managing phone messages on the TV during commercial breaks), and cheaper prices. So in the end, CableCard benefits all of us, even those who never get one.”

McQuivey is certainly right about the short run: we can’t imagine why we’d ever really care.  And we’re certainly in favour of any technology that forces the monopoly-headed cable companies to get up off their lazy bums.  But please excuse us for not being breathless about “managing phone messages on TV during commercial breaks.”  Thanks to TiVo, we don’t have to endure any more commercial breaks, and we’re quite happy with our current voicemail system.  If “managing phone messages on TV” is the most thrilling available example of the post-revolutionary future, moreover, please excuse us for greeting cableCARDS with a collective yawn.

Those who just can’t stand not knowing how great everything’s going to be when we all finally get cableCARDS should read this NYT article.   

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