Julian Clover looks at the emergence of the DVR for digital terrestrial homes
Weighing up the emerging technologies of DTT, HDTV and DVR which of the three are likely to have the greatest impact on the consumer? After ten years one might argue that DTT has well and truly emerged, but those of us in the UK should probably take a step back and look at other European markets, where the technology only offers a handful of channels or has yet to get off the ground. Actually, the whole point of DTT is that it relies on the ground-based terrestrial infrastructure rather than satellite or cable technology, but we digress. The majority of large screen sets are now HD Ready, but regulatory concerns continue to hinder this emerging technology.
My money is actually on DVR, the term digital video recorder replacing personal video recorder, which some consumers regard as yesterday’s news. All those relatives that have never been able to work the timers on their analogue VCRs have their problems solved at the touch of a button, maybe two.
I’ve been a Sky+ convert ever since my first unit arrived and watched as one by one broadcasters added the Series Link functionality that ensures you catch the next episode of a favourite show whatever the schedulers, or Tim Henman, might have planned for you. It is a little irritating that the Set Reminder functionality is restricted to the Sky branded channels.
As digital switchover beckons – many readers of this column will already live in parts of Europe where the UK leads digital routine is wearing a bit thin – consumers will be making a choice on their recorded viewing. True, a Scart plug between digital TV and analogue VCR will do the job in most cases, but eventually these machines will be replaced.
The introduction of Freeview Playback, first mooted last summer, and now expected to be in the shops within a few weeks marks an important milestone in DVR deployment. A standard set of features will highlight the presence of a product that has sometimes got lost in the ‘Freeview for under £30’ displays. It also allows a second stab at the standardisation process that gave us the low entry points for consumer electronics manufacturers and put a squeeze on the feature rich boxes that suffered under the pile them high mentality.
All eyes now to the regulator Ofcom and a decision on whether it will indeed soften its stance and allow the creation of a Freeview HD label to stick on the side of the next generations of STBs.