An infant technology intended to replace the traditional home video recorder has got the thumbs up from one industry big shot.
Marc Andreesen, cofounder of Netscape, has invested an undisclosed sum in Relay Networks, one of two companies developing digital television recording systems that one day may replace the home VCR.
Replay is developing a device, dubbed ReplayTV, that will store television programmes on a hard disk as opposed to video tape. Consumers will be able to watch, store and retrieve programmes in novel ways, including pausing while the programmes are in progress and returning to the point of the pause as much as 30 minutes later - or storing programmes according to interest categories.
Users can even intelligently skip commercials. ReplayTV will be able to store up to 32 hours of programmes for playback and will work with regular, cable and satellite television.
Most of Replay?s devices are still under development, but a $900 premium model will begin shipping later this year.
?Think of ReplayTV as a portal for television," Andreessen said in a statement announcing the investment. It will "personalise and manage the chaos of thousands of hours of television programming raining down on people daily".
"ReplayTV will do for TV what the browser did for the Internet," added Andreessen. "It's the browser for TV."
Replay Networks plans to run a programming guide that can be downloaded into the ReplayTV box at night via a regular phone line, allowing users to keep ReplayTV hooked up so that it can automatically find, capture and store any programmes covering selected topics, such as a favourite football team.
Both Replay and its only rival, Tivo, are attempting to adapt the strategy used by Internet Web portal companies like Yahoo and Excite to television by offering viewers the ability to customise their TV channels.
Both Replay and Tivo are going for the mass consumer market and are looking to license their technologies to consumer electronics manufacturers so that they can produce products for less than $500.
Tivo, however, plans to go one step further and sell information on the habits of its viewers to advertising companies.
Carmel Group, a consumer electronics market research company, forecasts the market for so-called personal TV systems will hit $380 million and 760,000 subscribers next year.
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