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Your Next Cable Box: Smart and Fast

Scientific Atlanta 8550HDC
Upcoming Cable set-tops will soon sport significant improvements to deal with HDTVs.

Time Warner is introducing boxes that are Open Cable Access Platform-compatible, which means that they permit two-way communication. But the boxes still use one-way CableCards; other components handle two-way communication for guide info and pay-per-view.

Scientific Atlanta says it is working on a line of set-top boxes carrying faster CPUs, more memory, and operating software based on a Linux kernel; the boxes will accept multistream CableCards, too, so you won't have to rent more than one card.

Comcast says that it should roll out set-top boxes that run TiVo software across the country by year's end, but customers will pay extra for the TiVo interface. The company is also focusing on implementing MPEG-4 support, since more content companies (including HBO) are using that format. Like Scientific Atlanta, Motorola is looking to use Linux in its boxes, too, plus HDMI 1.3 for higher bandwidth between the box and your TV.

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