I stumbled across a great article explaining just about everything you have ever wanted to know about CableCard technology. The in-depth explanation covers the differences between CableCard 1.0 and 2.0, and explains why DCAS might supplant CableCard before it ever really takes hold.
Among the more interesting points is the comparison of the CableCard 1.0 and 2.0 specifications. According to the story, only 1.0 is available in currently shipping television sets. This is an important distinction should you be in the market for a new TV set as CableCard 1.0 does not support picture-in-picture or pay-per-view. These services require two way communication between the cable provider and the CableCard. Only CableCard 2.0 will support this feature set and 2.0 is not realistically expected to be in production until 2007.
On top of this, DCAS stands to replace CableCard before it has a chance to reach critical mass. DCAS would offer all of the features of CableCard 2.0, but it is essentially a software version of the technology. This means that cable providers would effectively be able to update the capabilities of a television in order to add new features (or possibly remove them).
Since the federal government has mandated that cable providers adopt a common platform such as CableCard, it is only a matter of time before one or both of these technologies become common place. The only real question is how long it will take. So far the deadline for the transition has been extended more than once.
Check out the full CableCard story by Nate Anderson over at Arstechnica.com. It’s the first thorough explanation of the technology I have seen to date.