This time, it's different. In the past, when cable operators promised interactive TV-a wide array of services including everything from VOD to ordering that elusive pizza-we were disappointed.
In the early 1980s, QUBE and its less celebrated clones turned out to be mechanisms for winning cable franchises. Once the franchises were all gone, so were QUBE and the others.
In the early 1990s, the talk was of full-service networks that would spring from the convergence of the telephone and cable industries. Those networks, however, lost their way on the information superhighway.
But this time, it is different. The interactive services that cable operators are now working on are not clunky add-ons. They are natural outgrowths of other proven technologies, namely the Internet, which has been a hothouse for interactive functionalities, and the digital set-top box, which provides the necessary set-top intelligence. We may never get that pizza, but we are confident that, at the very least, we will soon have a chance to watch The Sopranos when it suits our schedule, not HBO's.