AT&T announced Tuesday the latest addition to its IP-based U-verse system, dubbed Total Home DVR. The DVR lets customers view recorded content on up to eight attached TVs simultaneously.
What home would use eight TVs simultaneously, other than a frat house or a bed and breakfast? No matter -- AT&T has Omega House covered. An enhancement to AT&T's satellite TV service, Total Home DVR lets customers watch on up to eight attached sets, whether the recorded content is SD, HD or a combination of both. For nomadic viewers, customers can pause content on one set, move to another room, and resume viewing from another set. And if you have one program recorded that everyone simply has to see -- such as a late-night showing of Animal House -- all sets can independently view, pause, rewind and fast forward to their favorite scenes.
The only eight-set exception seems to be HD content: The DVR supports only two live and three recorded HD shows simultaneously. Like its previous incarnation, the AT&T receiver can record four shows at once in SD, HD or a combination of both.
Total Home DVR customers can categorize their recordings by series. Since the receiver is IP-based, subscribers to the U-verse can set show recordings from PCs and wireless phones over the Net. Capacity on the Total Home DVR is 37 hours of HD programming or 133 hours of SD content.
San Francisco-area households with the AT&T U-verse sets will begin getting software updates over the next few days automatically, with a rollout for all customers expected before the end of the year, when AT&T promises that it will have more than one million customers.
IP Video Market
What really makes the AT&T announcement sizzle, however, is the fact that enhancements to existing U-verse DVRs will be pushed out over the Internet, and AT&T promises more Net-related services in the future. Its U-bar feature gives viewers Internet-delivered weather, traffic and news tickers without dropping their current viewing, and the system integrates Yellow Pages searches from the bar, as well. Other features include online fantasy football, and Yahoo games such as Sudoku and chess. The system will also hook you up to your Flickr account for displaying your stored online photos.
The Total Home DVR is but one of many new DVR technology announcements of late. Last week, TiVo announced a one-terabyte version of its own Internet-savvy DVR for home use, along with a set-top box deal with DirecTV. EchoStar, the box-producing spin-off of Dish networks, announced support and licensing for the Tru2way platform, giving set-top boxes and DVRs two-way communication with service providers and cable operations, enabling the development of integrated Web content and stand-alone applications.
Tru2way, however, is not an IP-based platform, although it is chasing a solution that may offer some Web-based benefits.
Verizon's DVR and TV offering over its fiber-optic network -- FiOS -- does not currently have integrated apps nor utilize the Internet, although the company has twice the installed base of the AT&T U-verse.
On the other hand, AT&T's announcement underscores the value in having an all-IP-based system, according to analysts. AT&T boxes can be upgraded and enhanced quickly throughout the network. The IP platform also makes integration of Web content and Web-based data into DVR and set-top box applications far less difficult and borders on true convergence of broadcast and Internet content.