Hard-Disk Video Recorders for Everyone?
Last week, EchoStar Communications and WebTV Networks announced that the new WebTV Personal TV service, featuring digital video recording, is now available for EchoStar's DISHPlayer satellite TV system. Pace Micro Technology is also revealing that it has produced a digital set-top box to allow viewers to pause and record live programs on a hard disk.
WebTV says that, together with DISH Network, they will deliver a complete enhanced TV product called DISHPlayer, which features digital video hard-disk recording, along with hundreds of digital satellite TV channels, interactive TV programs, and Internet browsing—all in a single set-top unit priced at $299. The company says the new satellite TV receiver will sport a built-in 17.2-gigabyte hard drive enabling up to 12 hours of digital video recording.
Pace claims its set-top box incorporates a hard-disk drive that will enable satellite, cable, terrestrial, and xDSL operators to "develop radical new services and ways of generating revenue." The company says that the new set-top box is the first stage in the development of a partnership between Pace and NDS to deliver the NDS XTV television system to market. Pace says that XTV is fully integrated into the broadcast system and uses smart software to select and store programming and enable personalized storage to match viewers' tastes and habits.
Pace America's VP of engineering, Graham Williams, states that "integrating a hard disk into a set-top box takes the RePlay and TiVo concept to the next level for the digital television industry. It offers opportunities far beyond the VCR functionality of Pause, Rewind, Fast Forward, etc. A set-top with storage capacity enables instant replays, slow-motion replays, targeted advertising, and downloading peak-time programming to free up bandwidth."
Pace says that within the set-top box are two tuners taking simultaneous television streams, and a hard disk with (currently) a 15-20GB capacity, which typically allows for up to 20 hours of program storage. "The digital input, taken straight onto the hard-disk drive, ensures that the replayed programming is of a consistent broadcast quality not usually experienced on traditional video recorders," says Pace.
According to Williams, "If you are watching live football and the telephone rings, at the touch of a button you can pause the action. The set-top box streams the event onto the hard-disk drive, and, upon your return, you can begin to watch again from the point at which you paused the game. In addition, you can watch one channel while recording another."