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PVRs, WebTV give way to disk-based set-tops

(IDG) -- The current generation of PVRs (personal video recorders) and Internet TVs are on the way out, but set-top boxes including PVRs could be set for a good future, according to Bill Ress, publisher of the Data Storage Review.

Stand-alone PVRs cost too much at upwards of $300, require users to pay another monthly subscription and present users with yet another remote control in their homes. Total subscriptions to WebTV have not risen much since late 1999, and have reached a plateau at around 1.1 million subscribers, Ress said in a presentation at Diskcon Asia on Thursday. INFOCENTER
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The biggest opportunity for storage vendors in this sector is for set-top boxes with built-in PVRs, according to Ress. Set-top boxes are needed by anyone who subscribes to cable television or direct broadcast satellite (DBS). PVRs contain hard disk drives to store the program content for later retrieval.

Worldwide, there are 256 million cable subscribers, of whom 70 million are in the United States. There are also 23 million DBS subscribers, 17 million of them in the United States, according to Ress.

A range of manufacturers are now ramping up to provide PVR functionality in set-top boxes, Ress said.

Products include:

  • EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dishplayer (manufacturing to ramp up from first quarter 2001 -- content via satellite)

  • TiVo Inc., Sony Corp. and Philips Electronics NV's DirecTV (first quarter 2001 -- satellite)

  • Microsoft Corp.'s UltimateTV (third quarter 2001 -- cable)

  • Motorola Inc.'s StreamMaster 5000 (fourth quarter -- cable)

  • Scientific Atlanta Inc.'s Explorer 8000 (fourth quarter -- cable)

    Ress expects sales of set-top boxes with PVR to reach 400,000 in 2001 and to grow at 50 percent annually to reach 2 million sales by 2005.

    Another big market for disk drive vendors are game consoles, according to Ress. Microsoft's Xbox is the only console yet with a hard drive, and Ress expects 1.5 million of these to be built this year.

    Sony Corp. is working on its next-generation PlayStation 3 which will include a disk drive when it is launched in the second quarter of 2003, and the fact that Sony is on track to sell 9 million PlayStation 2's this year shows the potential size of the game console market, Ress said.

    This year, the number of disk drives to be sold with non-PC devices will reach 2.7 million units, according to Ress. Although that represents strong growth over 2000, it is still under 1.5 percent of the total of 200 million disk drives that will be shipped this year, Ress said.

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