Samsung, Panasonic to Make Comcast Set-Tops

Cable operator Comcast has announced deals with South Korea’s Samsung and Panasonic (the U.S. subsidiary of Matsushita) to produce hundreds of thousands of digital cable set-top boxes for its cable customers.

Comcast’s deal with Samsung, announced January 5, 2006, at the 2006 CES show in Las Vegas, specifies an order of 200,000 units with the possibility to purchase an additional 500,000 units. The new devices will enable users to connect digital music players and digital cameras to their set-top boxes using USB 2.0. The Samsung units will feature Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 2.0 ports, support for Open Cable Application Platform (OCAP) and include codecs for both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 video streams.

The previous day, Comcast announced a deal with Panasonic (the U.S. subsidiary of Japan’s Matsushita) for 250,000 set top boxes with an option for an additional 750,000 units in the first year of the arrangement. The Panasonic systems will comply with the OCAP specification and Panasonic will make its middleware available to Comcast as the companies jointly explore ways to extend OCAP capabilities. The Panasonic digital cable boxes will feature high-definition video recording capabilities, a minimum 250 GB storage capacity, and will be able to decode both MPEG-2 and H.264 video.

Among other things, the OCAP specification should, in theory, enable users to control consumer electronics devices and their digital cable boxes using a single remote control and on-screen interface.

Comcast currently envisions providing three different types of set-top boxes to its customers. The Samsung units will likely be dubbed RNG100