The battle lines between the Consumer Electronics Association and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) are being drawn over AllVid. AllVid is the expected replacement for CableCard being discussed by the FCC and a group of seven companies from the electronics industry has now formed the “AllVid Tech Company Alliance.”
The AllVid Tech Company Alliance was formed to provide a unified voice for the consumer electronic companies to ensure the NCTA doesn’t try to cripple AllVid to the point they did with CableCard. The alliance has seven founding members including Google, Sony Electronics, TiVo, Best Buy, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics, Nagravision and SageTV. The alliance supports the “gateway” approach to providing TV & video service across the network.
Why is this important to Home Theater PC users? Well if you want to connect a Home Theater PC to time shift your TV content, your options are limited if your Cable or Satellite company encrypts their content like nearly all do in the U.S. today. In this case you’ll need either a CableCard tuner or a Hauppauge HD-PVR with your set top box. Unfortunately CableCard these days is a solution only for TiVo and Microsoft Windows 7 MediaCenter users. The NCTA is trying to argue that online streaming products like the GoogleTV and others that provide Netflix
One of the NCTA’s arguments is that products like Apple TV and Google TV along with Netflix & other streaming services on those devices mean AllVid isn’t needed for consumers. They would rather just let CableCard die out without a replacement and in the end consumers would have the “option” of a cable box or a streaming box.
There is no guarantee AllVid will make it through the red tape and lobbying mess of the FCC, but quite a bit of progress has been made already. And make no mistake about it – the stakes are huge for any consumer electronics company that wants to provide their own SageTV HTPC, TiVo, GoogleTV etc for the future. The Cable industry wants to control how the content can be viewed and protected – and they want to be sure it’s on their own devices. The CE industry wants to provide you, the consumer options – and of course make money providing those options to you.
It’s notable that the founding members include heavy-weight companies like Google and Sony but also a small company like SageTV is included. What surprises me the most are two companies in particular missing from the mix: Microsoft and Apple. If either of them plan to work outside of the NCTA’s grip, one would think they would have already begun voicing their opinions with the FCC by now.
I listened in during the last public FCC meeting on this topic and I’ll be watching the FCC to see what happens next.