Sony (SNE) has joined rivals LG, Samsung, and Panasonic, all of whom pledge to build TVs with built-in “Tru2Way” software that basically the need for a cable set-top box. This is bad news for cable set-top box makers like Motorola (MOT) and Cisco’s (CSCO) Scientific Atlanta. But it shouldn’t make much of a difference for Apple (AAPL) and Netflix’s (NFLX) plans to move into your living room.
Why not? First, there’s no guarantee this technology will take off. (Hello, CableCARD flop?) Right now these are press releases: Wait and see how many TVs get the software, whether people care, etc. And Tru2Way only works for cable, so if you’re a satellite subscriber or subscribe to fast-growing telco TV services like Verizon’s (VZ) FiOS or AT&T’s (T) U-Verse, you can’t use it.
Second, we think Tru2Way and gadgets like Apple TV and Netflix’s new streaming movie box are addressing different needs. Don’t forget that digital cable with bells and whistles is around $80 a month and rising; Netflix’s all-you-can-eat streaming service is free with your DVDs-by-mail subscription. And Apple TV — no monthly service fee — hooks into other things like your photo slideshows, music library, Google’s (GOOG) YouTube, and iTunes podcasts. (And someday soon, we hope, the Web, via a wireless keyboard.)
In short: We see Tru2Way replacing your set-top box. But we see something like an Apple TV/Netflix box replacing your DVD player.
With Tru2Way, the cable industry has a chance to make your living room less messy — fewer cables — which is nice. And Tru2Way promises to branch out: It could someday “also make it easier for consumers to receive the full range of cable-based services on other devices, such as laptops, MP3 players, and mobile phones,” the WSJ boasts. But until we see that — and until people adopt these devices en masse — we still think Apple and Netflix have as good a shot as anyone at taking over your entertainment centre.