website hit counter CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace? - Chris Lanier

CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

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?

Published Sat, Sep 12 2009 17:42 by chrisl

Comments

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Good points Chris.

To answer your question...

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?

Absolutely. Any positive like this certainly can't hurt. Is it "too little too late"? Too early to tell, but the more technologies like CableCARD become available to the average consumer, the more aware the marketplace as a whole will become. Just as it has taken a few years to get to this point, I don't expect that this new found CableCARD availability will overwhelm the consumer household overnight. It will likely take a couple of years to trickle down to the "common man", through vendors and through direct consumer purchase, but I think this new availablility will expand the marketplace.

Saturday, September 12, 2009 8:18 PM by Martyus

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

The next question is, after that "couple of years" it takes to work its way down will you need a PC running Media Center or will most people be happy with their $12/month DVRs that now all connect to each other and share content?

Saturday, September 12, 2009 8:37 PM by chrisl

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

No OEM opens it up to the casual user.  Not everyone wants media center to be the hub of all their content.  A $200 dual tuner is needed.  That way someone could make their computer a second tv.  

I would think the hd homerun is in trouble with this announcement.  DCTs are much easier to setup than an hd homerun and work better as clear qam.

If ceton can make it to market, the ati dcts are going to be real cheap on ebay.

Saturday, September 12, 2009 10:19 PM by Kevin

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

While i usually agree with Chris' opinion, I think he's missing a couple of points:

1. Regarding the CableCard tuner and AMD being out of market, I don't think this should be an issue. With the restrictions being lifted I actually see a great opportunities for other manufacturers to step in with other card and alternatives to CETON. AMD/ATI was the only licensed mfr for cable cards for a very limited market.

I bet that in 6-9 months we are going to see additional card from companies such as Hauppauge, AVER etc..

2. Unfortunately HTPC in general (and windows Media Center in particular) is not yet a mainstream platform. It is still most popular among DIY'ers and enthusiasts which would not buy their components from bestbuy or other bigbox retailers but rather from online retailers such as newegg.

Hopfully the price of the new card is going to be attractive enough to attract the first wave of enthusiasts to get it and start generating some positive buzz.

3. with the OEM restriction lifted, we are going to see more Media Center computers offered by smaller OEM's at a much more affordable prices compared to the very few high-end brands.

I think its a win-win.

4. all of this being said, there are a few restrictions left which if they are removed, would make Windows Media Center the real ultimate platform. One annoying example is the inability to play networked DVD's/blu-ray on extenders or alternatively, the inability to play LiveTV/RecordedTV on other Media Centers connected to the network.

5. Speaking of CEDIA, I was very please to see that DISH NETWORK demonstrated support for Windows Media Center. It's about time!

Sunday, September 13, 2009 1:09 AM by Eyal

# RIP OCUR

Too little, too late, too expensive, too difficult.

Sunday, September 13, 2009 5:07 AM by Richard

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

I don't know why the comments posted to this on Green Button don't merge with the comments here, but there is a major winner here and probably the reason MS announced it at CEDIA. The Custom Installer now can build his own HTPC for his customer and supply him with a much better DVR than you can get from a cable company or Sat company. Four signals (more if he can get AEP--just how does that work?) playing on multiple sets via extenders.

Once more people get these in their homes and their friends see the set-up, the potential for growth is there. Will it? Who know what other technology is in the wings and who will control the fibre or pipeline to the home.

John

Sunday, September 13, 2009 11:50 AM by John

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Sadly John, that concept doesn't work for most.  Almost all integrators are better off buying from a company who has an idea of what they are doing.  As we have all seen on TGB, support for Media Center can be an issue.  Integrators doing their own custom builds will not end well for most.  Price really isn't an issue for most in the market, so the price saving from an integrator building their own versus buying a Niveus is a moot point most of the time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009 4:17 PM by chrisl

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

"The next question is, after that "couple of years" it takes to work its way down will you need a PC running Media Center or will most people be happy with their $12/month DVRs that now all connect to each other and share content?"

In those "couple of years", Microsoft has the opportunity to overrun the Cable Co subscription DVRs. Today, I don't know of any CC DVR that has the features, functionality, UI, usability, or potential of Media Center, especially when MC extenders are factored in. As long as Microsoft continues to innovate on Media Center, I doubt the CC DVRs could keep pace.

This new CableCARD availablilty solves a big problem for many households that today wouldn't think of Media Center as an alternative to their CC DVR. Today, for the common household, there is no way to use their Family Room PC (aka Media Center) to replace their CC DVR(s). Adding NTSC/ATSC tuners and/or Homerun devices just doesn't cut it when they want to watch ESPN HD. Not to mention the complexity of hooking up an antenna, getting QAM to work, etc.

To date, all Media Center PCs available from retail outlets (i.e. Best Buy) have only had NTSC/ATSC tuners (no CableCARD). These are pretty much useless for the common household, and I suspect anyone purchasing one quickly became dissapointed when they realized that they would still need their CC DVR to watch ESPN HD. So, I would say that any statistics regarding lack of retail sales for Media Center PCs to this point to be a waste and totally misleading.

Now, with the potential ability to purchase a low cost CableCARD Media Center PC from Best Buy or adding a simple plug-n-play multi-tuner CableCARD (internal or better yet external USB box) to the Family Room PC, and hooking up MC Extender(s) to the TV(s), is a great way for the common household to jetison their CC DVRs, or as an alternative to getting a CC DVR in the first place.

Also, the cost differential shouldn't be that much, when one compares the cost of a CableCARD tuner to that of one or more ATSC tuners. So for a retailer like Best Buy to sell a Dell or HP Media Center computer with 2-4 CableCARD tuners instead of 2-4 ATSC tuners would likely result in a very small cost increase for the CableCARD (esp. when one considers the benefits of CableCARD tuners over ATSC tuners).

Monday, September 14, 2009 1:06 AM by Martyus

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Well, looks like my 6-9 months assessment was too conservative :)

www.engadgethd.com/.../hauppauge-to-expand-its-offerings-to-include-a-cablecard-tuner

- Eyal

Monday, September 14, 2009 1:43 PM by Eyal

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

"The next question is, after that "couple of years" it takes to work its way down will you need a PC running Media Center or will most people be happy with their $12/month DVRs that now all connect to each other and share content?"

Along those lines, there is no reason the Cable Co. couldn't offer a "PC Interface Cable Box". Basically an external CableCARD multi-tuner box that includes a pre-configured CableCARD and has coax and USB interfaces.

There are probably households that would prefer to rent this type of PC cable box for a monthly fee that would be slightly more than just the CableCARD itself, but less than the monthly fee of a full CC DVR.

This is kind of like how most people today still "rent" their Cable Modem instead of purchasing one.

Monday, September 14, 2009 11:48 PM by Martyus

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Martyus:

That puts 100% of the support on the cable co.  Not going to happen.  Ever.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 6:59 AM by chrisl

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Most definitely I think this helps Media Center's growth in the marketplace. You can walk into a "Best Buy" type store currently and look at any one of a handful of ATSC/QAM TV tuners from companies like Hauppauge, Aver, Pinnacle, etc. This just gives these same companies the ability to phase in new tuners with CableCARD compatibility and sell them on the retail level. I don't understand why Chris says he's "not exactly expecting the card to show up at my local Best Buy." That's exactly where these cards will be showing up, right alongside the current TV tuners that are there already.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 11:54 AM by Yogi

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

"That puts 100% of the support on the cable co.  Not going to happen.  Ever."

Hmmm... "Ever" is a long time! :)

I am not sure I follow your line of reasoning. The Cable Co. is already supporting similar devices.

I "rent" my Cable Modem from the Cable Co. and they support that.

When I rented a multi-tuner DVR from the Cable Co. they supported that.

This proposed "PC Interface Cable Box" is basically just the CableCARD tuners from the CC DVR with a USB interface, so the hardware cost to the CC would be a fraction of what the DVR costs them, for only a slightly less revenue stream.

Besides, any form of USB CableCARD tuner would have to be plug-n-play, an area where Microsoft has done a darn good job of "getting it right". For example, I am running my Vista Media Center HTPC with the Hauppauge 1600 and 1800 drivers which Microsoft automatically installed (plug-n-play at its best).

Anyway, once consumers start buying CableCARD tuners from Best Buy, the Cable Co. is still going to have to provide the actual CableCARD and some level of support, where the consumer is plugging in the CableCARD and doing the initial CableCARD configuration. At least with the proposed "PC Interface Cable Box" hardware offered by the CC, they would have more control over the CableCARD itself, the hardware it is plugging into, as well as the configuration.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 11:29 PM by Martyus

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Martyus:

The point is if they do that the cable company takes ownership of supporting a PC.  They "support" cable boxes because if their is an issue, they take the box back and give you a new one.  Simple swap out and the issue is fixed.  This can't be said for anything involving a PC.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 7:02 AM by chrisl

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Yogi:

I don't expect a company like Ceton (eg. small) to get distribution at Best Buy out of the gate.  This isn't a new concept.  Silicon Dust HDHR isn't sold at Best Buy.  Why?

As I said, if Hauppauge comes out with a tuner this might be solved as they already have the distribution channel.

And then the last issue, price.  Best Buy likely is going to have limited interest stocking a $300+ tuner that will sit next to their exist stock of $99 tuners which sit next to their PCs which typical retail for under $700.  The point here is average joe isn't going to buy a $500 PC and then thinking about getting a $300 tuner to go with it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 7:08 AM by chrisl

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Chris,

"The point is if they do that the cable company takes ownership of supporting a PC.  They "support" cable boxes because if their is an issue, they take the box back and give you a new one.  Simple swap out and the issue is fixed.  This can't be said for anything involving a PC."

You have a valid point, but I don't think it is necessarily a show stopper. With USB and plug-n-play, I don't think the PC will be as big a factor as you think it would be. Also, the Cable Co. supports cable modems, which for most customers directly involve connection to a PC, and which are potentially more complex to install and configure than a plug-n-play TV tuner (ATSC or CableCARD).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 6:20 PM by Martyus

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Chrisl,

"Silicon Dust HDHR isn't sold at Best Buy.  Why?"

That's easy, because they are too darn complex for the average consumer (e.g. connect via wired ethernet) and not a plug-n-play device (at least the last time I read through the HDHR docs). On the other hand, with a Hauppauge TV tuner (i.e. 1600, 1800), Windows Vista automatically installs the drivers and all I have to do is run through the Media Center 10' UI config to setup the guide, etc.

"As I said, if Hauppauge comes out with a tuner this might be solved as they already have the distribution channel."

Agreed.

"And then the last issue, price.  Best Buy likely is going to have limited interest stocking a $300+ tuner that will sit next to their exist stock of $99 tuners which sit next to their PCs which typical retail for under $700.  The point here is average joe isn't going to buy a $500 PC and then thinking about getting a $300 tuner to go with it."

Hmmm... If you think of it _that_ way, perhaps... The thing here is that if Best Buy (and Hauppauge or whomever) are smart, CableCARD tuners would not only be sold in the "PC aisle", next to the shelf of (mostly worthless to the average consumer) ATSC tuners, CableCARD tuners would mostly be sold in the "HDTV aisle", next to Dish and DirectTV offerings. For one thing, it would temper any price differential you mentioned. But mostly, CableCARD tuners need to be marketed and sold as a way to get all the wonders of Digital Cable and HD content into that HDTV. And even as an alternative to getting a Cable Co. DVR with a properly packaged product (e.g. a "PC Interface Digital Cable Box")

CableCARD tuners open up whole new world of digital cable content that the average consumer never before had available with Media Center and ATSC tuners. As such, it will be important to get the marketing "right".

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 6:52 PM by Martyus

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Why on earth does anyone think that a CableCARD tuner alone is going to sell for over $300?

An entire TivoHD sells for $249, and that includes more electronics than just a CableCARD tuner inside of it.

The DVR's that cable companies issue, such as the Scientific Atlanta 8300HDC cost much less than $300 to the cable companies.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 10:43 PM by Alfred

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Might have something to do with the fact that the ATI OCUR is a $300 tuner.

Thursday, September 17, 2009 6:11 AM by chrisl

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

There are already brick-and-mortar stores that sell the HD-PVR, silicondust and many other similar devices.  Microcenter is one.  All other skepticisms and complaints aside, yes, this will increase the market share, no doubt about it.  How much?  We'll see

Thursday, September 17, 2009 3:24 PM by Ed K

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

and to all those complaining about how a $300 device at Best Buy won't sell, clearly you've forgotten about the $50 video cables they sell that can be had for $6 online.   Best buy is plenty capable of selling overpriced stuff.  Also, you all think Best Buy only sells to average joe's with no PC knowledge, yet they do sell PCI cards, $300 video cards, etc.  

And finally, cable boxes (where I'm from) are NOT $12/mo - try $20/mo, and don't forget that's times 2,3 or more for all TVs in the house.  Would I buy a ceton at $300 to save $60/mo?   You do the math, geniuses.

Thursday, September 17, 2009 3:33 PM by Ed K

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

How can a TivoHD, which contains a CableCARD tuner, sell for $249 at retail, while the OCUR tuners cost so much more?

And the TivoHD box includes electronics and a hard drive in addition to the CableCARD tuner, yet, they sell at Best Buy for $249.

Is it just price gouging by ATI/AMD and Ceton?

Thursday, September 17, 2009 4:06 PM by Ralph

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

What is with all the Tivo comparisons?   Doesn't anybody realize that a Tivo does not cost $250?  Without paying the additional monthly fee it's a $250 paper-weight.  And don't forget the advertising $$$.   C'mon think, people!!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009 4:41 PM by Ed K

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Because a TivoHD has the same hardware and then some in the box as CableCARD tuner available for a PC, yet it costs less.

Regardless of whether you ever subscribe to Tivo service or not, Tivo is not selling the hardware for a loss. And $249 is a retail price at Best Buy, and Best Buy is not selling it for a loss either.

Thursday, September 17, 2009 5:16 PM by Ralph

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Ceton has said they will be price competitive and those doesn't mean ATI DCTS which will probably soon disappear--to me it means against Tivo and Moxi.

Let's wait until the product comes out before we put a price on it--my magic 8 ball only has 8 answers and none of them are prices, perhaps you have better sources.

I still think the small operator now has the abilty to compete with the bigger guys and can bring a cablecard system into a smaller home installation.

Since we no longer have a Gen Saranoff to dictate the outcome of the future, we'll just have to wait.

John

Thursday, September 17, 2009 6:45 PM by John

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Um... yes, Tivo DOES sell hardware at a loss.  Next I suppose you're going to tell us that $49 blackberries aren't sold at a loss either.

Keep in mind that the "cost" of hardware is  that of the material, the R&D cost, the CEO's salary, etc.   If all you do is sell the hardware, then the price will reflect.

Friday, September 18, 2009 11:35 AM by Ed K

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Tivo sells hardware at a loss, and has done so every year of their existence.  Proof: their quarterly statements.

copied this from a TivoCommunity board:  

Figures from last quarterly report say TiVo got $6.4 million from hardware sales and spent $10.6 million. That's much closer to breaking even than they have been in the past! (Fiscal year 2008, they got $42 million on hardware and spent $92 million, and 2007 was worse.)

Friday, September 18, 2009 11:44 AM by Ed K

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

All of the comments are great, and I am complete supporter of this, in fact it is my birthday and I couldn't have asked for a better gift. I have been on the fence about hacking my own system or just breaking down and buying an oem.

But the real questions is, can I go and get a DCT now and build my own system today? I looked an the ATI site and I didnt see a new driver release. Does anyone know when we can do this?

Saturday, September 19, 2009 11:46 AM by Winnerman

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

I think it will drive up the use of Media Center. Even people with 2nd or 3rd PCs in their homes could add a tuner for $200-300 and about $2-3 a month could get all the programing their main TV gets (even if they have a Cable DVR)

I just hate the fact that about 7-8 months ago I picked up a OEM cablecard ready system. For the price I paid at the time, I could built a faster CPU, more HD space, more memory, better video and still got 2-3 cablecard tuners for less money. Oh, well, it is what it is...

Sunday, September 20, 2009 4:38 PM by DavidinCT

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Chris,

With the new Ceton tuners do you see a need for Softsled now?

msmvps.com/.../1469441.aspx

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 1:34 PM by EGo

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

There has always been a need, and that will continue.  That was not the point of that article.

Softsled will never exist, what will is things like HomeGroup that can take advantage of content without DRM.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 3:18 PM by chrisl

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

I think Microsoft has something up their sleave still - Softsled!

Friday, September 25, 2009 4:09 PM by Scott

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

S1digital created softsled, but only for their own product.  I wonder if this will be a feature in the final release of Windows 7.

Friday, September 25, 2009 6:00 PM by Scott

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

Open Cable finally becomes open?  Well pardon me if I don't celebrate.  This should have been done 3 years ago when Media Center had a chance.  

Now, if I want video on my PC I'll go to Hulu.   If I want an HD PVR, my cable company will rent me one.    

Media Center is being "managed" into oblivion.  

Wednesday, October 07, 2009 4:14 PM by bizzbee

# re: CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

I for one and drooling eagerly awaiting the time when I can happily fork over $600 for a 4-stream tuner.

Considering the myriad of advantages that WMC has over cable-co DVR's, in my opinion if Microsoft went on a full-court press and got some major OEM's to play ball with media center PC's that look like they belong under your TV they could gain a lot of market share in a Big Damn Hurry(tm).

Monday, October 26, 2009 4:05 PM by Nick