Goodbye Cable Box?

Is the cable box about to go by way of the VCR? Sony Electronics and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association announced today that they have signed an agreement that would allow Sony to add many of the functions performed by set-top boxes to their TVs.

Most TVs have a built-in coaxial connection, allowing you to connect a cable wire directly to the set, but there are many advanced “two-way” features that require the box, like pay-per-view and on-demand.

Sony could not say when the first such televisions might be appear in stores.

The NCTA’s members include the nation’s six largest cable companies: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems and Bright House Networks. The six companies serve more than 82 percent of cable subscribers.

Customers will still be able to attach their own devices, like TiVo digital video recorders, according to the NCTA.

That’s a good thing, because modern cable boxes have DVRs built into them. Ditching the cable box would mean losing the DVR. Of course, that’s good news for TiVo, which has suffered for the addition of DVR capabilities to cable boxes, since people didn’t need an add-on box any more.

I just hope Sony doesn’t get the bright idea to add DVRs to its TVs. DVRs have a higher burn-out rate than TVs — by several years — because they use a hard drive, which is constantly running. Think about it. As long as your TV is on, that DVR hard drive is spinning as it records what you watch. The last thing anyone would want is for a dead DVR in their computer that needs repairs.

Still, it will be nice if I can dispense with one remote control and I can use the native channels in the TV rather than having to lock the TV on channel 3 and use the cable box. Now we need for more than just Sony to embrace the idea.

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