New Hard Drives To Expand DVR Capacity

That’s why new external hard drives that are being designed to expand the capacity of cable or satellite industry digital video recorders will likely have to subscribe to the same copy protection standards dictated by Hollywood.

Maxtor Corp., the world’s second largest hard-drive maker, announced a new 160-gigabyte external drive this week that will be built as an expansion for cable or satellite set-top boxes.

Seagate Technology, the world’s No. 1 hard-drive maker, plans to announce next week a similar offering aimed at capitalizing on the growth of DVRs, now quickly gaining steam as the cable industry embarks on introducing DVR-equipped boxes to its massive customer base.

The offerings by the two hard-drive companies will be tailored to order for their network operator customers, but both say they are certain their new external drives won’t become unrestricted portable video storage boxes for TV viewers who want to move their recorded shows onto a computer or to someone else’s DVR.

“This will give users more storage while making sure that the spirit of fair use is still in effect,” said Rob Tait, Seagate’s director of global consumer electronics marketing. “Each cable system is going to have their own approach to digital rights management, and we’ll have a program that will work with each.”

With digital video recording, TV viewers can forgo videocassettes, easily record their favorite shows on a hard disk instead and watch them whenever they want. It’s “Saturday Night Live” on Wednesday or “Nightline” in the morning.

DVR users can even pause live TV to tend to a phone call, or do an instant replay to catch a missed line.

But so far, in heeding the piracy and copying concerns of Hollywood, makers of DVRs are not including the capability to network the gadgets to a PC, and if they are, then there are encryption mechanisms that block the transfer of content to the Internet.

For instance, DVR pioneer TiVo plans to introduce later this year TiVo To Go, which will allow users to transfer their recorded programs onto a PC or laptop – but not onto the Internet.

The ability of users to post any of their recorded TV programs to the Internet has not been a widespread problem as a result, and has been limited to a minority group of technowizards who know how to hack the hardware.

The hard-drive makers don’t intend to disrupt that relationship between Hollywood and the existing DVR providers, which they hope will become their customers.

The external drives will essentially be designed to work with only the copy-protected devices authorized by the cable or satellite operators, the companies’ officials said.

The Maxtor QuickView Expander, as it has been named, “is not designed so you can take it away from the intended device and plug it into a PC. That’s not going to work,” said David Barron, Maxtor’s director of digital entertainment. “The first important point is that it’ll only work with DVRs and set-top boxes where the cable operators have enabled them to work.”

Distribution of both the new Seagate and Maxtor external drives will be through cable and satellite operators, which can choose to either lease them to their subscribers, lend it to them for free, or sell it to them via retail stores.

Prices have not been set and will vary among the network operators.

But one thing is clear: Maxtor and Seagate, whose hard drives are already used internally in many DVRs, will gain new streams of revenue from these external DVR drives.

Scientific-Atlanta, which along with Motorola supplies most of the cable industry’s set-top boxes, was the first to deploy a cable DVR box with Time Warner Cable in July 2002. Demand has only gotten hotter since and the company has an aggressive lineup of future products, including one for the second half of the year that will work with an external hard drive.

“It’s been an avalanche of interest,” said Bob Van Orden, vice president of strategy and product planning at Scientific-Atlanta, “and the snowball will just get bigger and bigger.”

Source: Associated Press

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