Archives For DVR

simpletv2

Right on schedule, second generation Simple.TV network tuner pre-orders have begun shipping.

To improve upon the first gen, Simple.TV partnered with Silicon Dust to produce a smaller, yet more more powerful dual tuning unit to better leverage those high definition over-the-air broadcasts. For maximum flexibity, but a possibly higher geek quotient, SimpleTV remains hard driveless and headless – bring your own external storage and display technology. And speaking of those endpoints, live or recorded content can be viewed via refreshed web, iOS, and Android experiences. Further, at CES next month, we expect to see SimpleTV’s incoming Roku channel updates and a new Ouya client. While you can run the new SimpleTV ($250) without “Premiere” service, we expect most would pull the trigger to enable its full capabilities, including season pass recording and remote access. And the plot thickens in 2014 as we anticipate a new tier of service to include cloud storage, à la Boxee.

We’ve been cranking away on a SimpleTV review the last couple months and expect to share our (positive) experiences soon, once we’ve had some quality time with the new Android app… as the software updates equally improve the first gen hardware experience. And if Aereo ever launches in DC, we’ll run a comparison.

Update: It appears there’s been some last minute delay. While the Simple.TV site began accepting orders December 26th, product won’t actually ship until January and NewEgg pre-orders have been pushed from December to January 17th (but units are $50 off). Simple TV’s PR firm hasn’t yet responded to our inquiry.

We’ve been tracking Channel Master‘s moves since new digital video recorder hardware first surfaced in FCC documents last summer. They’ve clearly used the intervening months wisely to fine tune both the product experience and marketing strategy as the originally documented pair of K77 set-tops has been whittled down to the single and more memorable DVR+ ($250). And, as you probably guessed from the video above, I do indeed have product on hand… and my initial impressions are quite positive.

The first thing you notice about the dual-tuner, over-the-air DVR+, developed by EchoStar to Channel Master’s specifications, is its amazingly slim form factor. Weeks in, I’m still in awe of the hardware that has similar dimensions to a legal pad or slim notebook. It’s both physically solid and quite handsome… as is the matching remote.

CM7500-Angle

Of course, to hit such slim proportions, compromises had to be made. And we assume the absence of analog inputs is the result. Related, the Channel Master DVR+ ships with a mere 16GB of flash storage, good for 2 hours of HD recording and the ability to pause live television for up to 15 minutes. Having said that, I appreciate Channel Master’s modular approach with DVR+ — buy what you need, when you need it (or as funds permit). For example, without an Internet connection, the DVR+ is capable of receiving a modest amount of guide data over the air and software updates can be performed manually via USB. But add Internet, via integrated Ethernet jack or $40 WiFi adapter, and more comprehensive guide data (powered by Rovi) extends to 14 days with software updates coming over the ‘net. Add USB storage to increase your recording capacity, and also receive a larger 1 hour buffer to pause and rewind live television. As a dual tuner DVR, the hardware is capable of recording up to two high definition, over-the-air broadcasts via antenna with the ability to simultaneously watch previously recorded programming. And all of that sips a miserly 9.7 watts. In fact, Channel Master intends to apply for Energy Star 3 or 4 certification.

On the software front, Channel Master has seemed to strike the right balance between form and function – the guide looks sharp, with well implemented transparency. And, functionaly, novices can get up and running with minimal fuss while there are more advanced features (like padding) for those willing to dig deeper. If I had to ding any aspect of the presentation, I’d say the networking settings and configuration could be tightened up. The plus sign in DVR+ refers to its online capabilities and those who run it connected to the Internet will have access to over-the-top app content. At launch, we’re looking solely at Vudu video on demand. But Channel Master tells me they have additional deals in place and development work will commence shortly… and I sure hope YouTube and Netflix are on the 2014 roadmap. Interestingly, Channel Master has decided to implement online content within the guide versus a dedicated app area. For example, Vudu resides at “channel” 200 and others will come in above it, with plans to map a remote button to the 200s for efficient access.

While we frequently discuss “cord cutters”, the fact is that there are something around 15 million antenna-only households… many of whom are price sensitive and still fumble around with VCRs. This is the market Channel Master is prioritizing with DVR+ and the company’s first goal is a rock solid over-the-air digital recorder, with additional online content to follow – to expand its utility and potential audience. Further, unlike a TiVo, the DVR+ does not require a service fee (or Internet connection) and that aforementioned modular approach makes for a flexible solution. Pre-orders begin today, for January shipment, and I’ll be taking questions below.

cm7500-receipt

Originally scoped out last summer via FCC docs, it seems safe to assume that the Echostar-produced Channel Master OTA DVR nears release given web store references uncovered by AVS Forum members.

While the July government filing referred to a pair of units, at this point we only see reference to a single fee-free $250 dual-tuning model – alternately referred to as the CM-7500 and DVR+… that may require external storage for DVR capabilities given the 500GB ($70), 1TB ($95) & 3TB ($125) Seagate hard drive accessories (in addition to a $40 wireless option). Sadly, the product page (which has been pulled), didn’t include glamour shots or detail on which over-the-top Internet services might be included. Continue Reading…

Do Retail DVRs Have a Chance?

Mari Silbey —  November 11, 2013

DVR fortune cookie

There’s a lot of bad news on the retail set-top front. According to the NCTA, the number of retail CableCARD devices deployed has dropped to 600,000 from 603,000 since August. No big surprise. Despite a few flickers of life, the retail CableCARD market has been on a path of decline for years. But then there’s also the news that Intel has gone belly up with its OnCue set-top plans, and even Amazon is delayed with its Kindle-branded set-top, that was supposed to go to market before year end.

Do future retail DVRs have a shot?

Well, actually, yes.  Continue Reading…

Motorola President Home and Networks Mobility Dan Moloney CES 2010

Every industry has its own small-world feel, and the cable industry perhaps more than most. Enemies and friends disappear and then reappear in new circles. Opponents in one fight end up allies in another. And the once-president of Motorola Mobility joins the Board of Directors for retail rival TiVo.

Such is the case with Dan Moloney. Moloney rose up through General Instruments, and was part of the acquisition of GI by Motorola in 2000. He ran Motorola’s Connected Home business (known by a variety of names over the years), and, after a brief stint as CEO of Technitrol in 2010, took on the role of President at Motorola Mobility when the original Motorola split in two. He left again in 2012 when Google took over, and has largely been off the radar for the last year.

Now Moloney’s back, Continue Reading…

flarewatch

Another one bites the dust… Cox Communication’s over the top flareWatch television experiment has come to an end, with customers being notified of service termination and refunds (1, 2) while the landing page indicates “Service Unavailable.” The offering, built upon FanTV hardware, was intended to provide advanced television services, including cloud DVR and VOD, to cord cutters (who’d effectively replace one cord for another). Next?

snapstream-server

We’ve covered SnapStream since just about Day 1 here at ZNF and, along the way, struck up a friendship with CEO Rakesh Agrawal – someone we highly respect and enjoy regularly running into at trade show cab lines. As the story goes, SnapStream very successfully pivoted from hobbyist HTPC solution (BeyondTV) to professional grade TV monitoring… with The Daily Show as an early, notable customer. Consisting of terabytes of storage, television transcription, and multi-pane viewing these guys offer all sorts of compelling business intelligence tools and Ars Technica recently visited their Houston office for an exposé worth checking out:

With 30 tuners and 30 TB of storage, SnapStream makes TiVos look like toys

SnapStream’s enterprise DVR clusters together multiple capture servers that all pool together their storage. The servers run Windows Server 2008R2 and the proprietary SnapStream application, and they each contain a stack of hard disk drives in a RAID 5 4+1 configuration. The SnapStream application uses Microsoft SQL Server for storing metadata, and recorded video files are stored on the NTFS-formatted file system as regular files. Larger customers can also use existing SAN or NAS systems […] Video is typically ingested into the SnapStream DVRs directly from a cable feed at 480p, 720p, or 1080i through component inputs on heavy-duty QAM capture cards, thus bypassing the need for CableCard

Samsung Smart Media Player Boxee

Samsung is speeding along toward the launch of a new retail CableCard device thanks to a waiver granted last week by the FCC. As Dave reported back in May, Samsung is planning to bring its Smart Media Player to market in time for the holiday shopping season. However, the company needed a waiver to avoid having to include an analog tuner in the device. Samsung got its wish with this notice from the FCC:

Specifically, we waive the requirement in Section 15.118(b) of the Commission’s rules that Samsung’s Smart Media Player include tuners that are capable of receiving analog cable channels. We conclude that the waiver is in the public interest because it will reduce the cost and power consumption of the Smart Media Player and provide consumers with a retail set-top box option that can better compete with devices leased by cable operators, thus enhancing competition in the retail set-top box market.

The FCC waiver helps ensure Samsung’s box will actually make to retail shelves, but it’s not the most interesting angle to this story. First of all, the hybrid cable+OTT set-top comes along at a time when retail CableCARD devices were all but presumed dead. Second, while the new set-top doesn’t include a hardware-based digital video recorder, Samsung could conceivably pair the device with Boxee cloud DVR service. Samsung picked up Boxee earlier this summer with plans to include the company’s technology in future “smart” television products. The new Smart Media Player certainly sounds like it qualifies.