I think bottom line is the FCC wants the cableco's to be just the "vessel" that carries the signals to the home. Beyond that, they want open competition for the "user experience" on the set top box. I do like the FCC vision, but I don't think it goes quite far enough. I also think Comcast has a point re: apps. Comcast wants absolute and total control of the user experience for TV content that comes through them. But FCC says no, you have to enable competitors to come in and provide alternative user experiences. Cableco's have done things that have locked them into certain positions (created their own nightmares)... Like for example, they have created legal agreements with content providers for channel placement/numbering. But a competitor's STB could (for example) decide to organize and present the channels in a more meaningful way (such as by genre - news, sports, movies, childrens, etc.) and that could violate the agreements that Comcast has created with A&E, ESPN, etc.
I'd like to see some sort of merger of these ideas with some standardization defined. Without standards, everybody "rolls their own". Each TV manufacturer has a natural desire to differentiate from their competitors. But the underlying platform is lacking standards that would promote smooth porting of apps from one platform to another. Each manufacturer has their own spin on the underlying OS environment. Same is true for STBs and OTT devices.
Can you imagine what it would have been like if this same environment was in place in the 80's when the IBM PC and MS-DOS came about? Without those basic standards in place, the explosion of "compatible" apps for the IBM PC / PC-DOS environment would never have taken place. We're heading down that road now, where there just isn't a common standard being applied in the STB and OTT box environments.
I think it's also just a matter of time before the user experience (i.e. the GUIDE) is serving you ads based on your viewing habits. This seems like another area where the cablecos probably see opportunity for revenue, and they obviously want to retain control over that.
Side note... I wouldn't be surprised if cablecos start making use of STB "metadata", and selling that information. Sort of like Nielson ratings where they aggregate the customers viewing habits and sell that information to content providers. They know what you're watching. Another thing they might lose control of in the FCC vision.