Panasonic Kills Rear Projection, Promises 2-Way CableCard By Summer

Today in New York, Panasonic showed off the Viera flat-panel TVs it launched at CES, including its badass flagship PZ800 and PZ850 plasma sets and its premiere LZ800 LCD, all coming this summer at prices to be announced. During the meeting, Panasonic also confirmed officially that it was no longer in the rear-projection business, owing to a price crunch in flat panels that basically drove any discount value out of the chunkier projection sets. Bottom line: people would rather pay $3K for a smaller and thinner set than a larger but fatter one. Panasonic also addressed the issue of OpenCable (aka OCAP aka Tru2way) two-way CableCards.

Two-way CableCards basically mean that the cable box, with all its features including VOD and PPV, is built into the TV. Right now, the CableCard in a TiVo or Media Center PC will only get you video. Panasonic will integrate OCAP into its mid-level PZ80 line, in 50" and 42" models this summer. Though the list prices for the TVs without OCAP are $2499 and $1599 respectively, the price of OCAP itself will be quite noticeable. Though there are some shared-chip advantages to integrating the set-top box, Panasonic still says "it'll be the cost of a cable box built into a TV," so like, not cheap.

Panasonic is currently testing with Comcast in five markets, and are building this to spec with CableLabs and all of the cable companies, but that's no guarantee that any carrier will be ready to deploy when the TVs are, so get ready for cranky customer service operators and a lot of educational consumership. That is to say, you might have to teach your cable carrier about this new technology. [Panasonic 2008 Viera Lineup; CableLabs OpenCable]