Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Verizon's multi-room DVR stirs the pot, but has some big gotchas

Verizon is jumping into the multi-room DVR category in a big way. Their Home Media DVR has much to recommend it, but also has some significant gotchas.

On the plus side: the main room gets a two-tuner high-definition DVR with the ability to stream SD recorded content to two additional rooms simultaneously. The other rooms use a standard IPTV set top box. In addition, PC-based music and photos can be streamed to any of the TVs on the system. Verizon will use the advanced capabilities of this system as a competitive advantage to tempt cable customers over to its IPTV offerings. As Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff says, "For the first time, this means that Verizon can compete with cable on features, not just on price." It's not, however, a sustainable advantage. Motorola, who supplies this technology to Verizon is eager to arm the cable industry with identical capabilities.

On the gotcha side: The main unit is HDTV-capable. The client units are not. This means that anything that's recorded on the DVR in high definition can't be streamed out to the other rooms. If you don't have HDTV yet, no problem. But if you do, the system is not as useful as you'd hope. Once people invest in an HDTV display, they vastly prefer HD content over SD.
The Verizon system will force customers to compromise. Do I record the SD version, so I can share it, or the HD version so I can enjoy my delicious new display? The other big gotcha for customers is that the client units don't let you pause, replay, or rewind live TV. DVR users love that function. Will they be happy not to get it at all TVs in what is billed as a multi-room DVR?

We are inevitably marching forward toward a home and portable media vision that was first presented to us in Star Trek TNG. Big screens, hand-helds, desk-tops, (and, of course, the totally immersive holodeck). But we're marching slowly. And nobody has yet delivered an uncompromised whole-home entertainment system.

Mickeleh's Take: Too many gotchas and compromises for a hit product, but it's going to open the category a little wider. Any success will prompt cable and satellite providers to match the Verizon product. TiVo's uphill battle against embedded DVRs gets steeper. There's still room for somebody to get this right. Apple? Moxi?

Disclaimer: I used to work for Digeo, who makes the Moxi multi-room DVR. Moxi has the ability to down-convert HD content so that it can be viewed in another room on an SD set. It also has full trick-mode on live TV in both sets.

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Multiroom HD said...

The Multi-room HD DMR provides multi-room HD recording and playback with an integrated multi-stream Cable Card (M-Card). It features that allow users to watch, record and play high-definition programming, stream content from their PCs and support web scheduling.