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News Feature
RCA's Personal TV Play

By Net4TV Voice Staff
(July 16, 2000)

Thomson Multimedia (owner of the RCA brand) is investing heavily in the personal TV field with deals with Microsoft, DIRECTV, and hard drive maker Seagate.

In a deal announced June 12, Microsoft, DIRECTV, and Thomson announced plans to market an RCA-branded version of Microsoft's UltimateTV service. It potentially marks WebTV's entry into the broadband market, if the device takes advantage of the built-in USB ports to provide DSL connectivity.

This announcement preceded an announcement made by America Online that combines AOLTV, TiVo and DIRECTV into a competing product.

The all new RCA DS4290RE System with UltimateTV and DIRECTV service will combine direct broadcast satellite (DBS) DIRECTV programming with digital video recording with optional Internet access provided by WebTV networks. This is the latest WebTV device to emphasize interactive television and digital recording over Internet access.

The device will feature an electronic program guide, picture-in-picture, multiple tuners for simultaneous recording and second channel viewing from the DIRECTV satellite system, 30 hours of digital recording, custom programming and ATVEF/WebTV compatible interactive television programming. The combined unit will be available for the 2000 holiday shopping season.

The unit contains two digital satellite tuners and a large hard drive to allow users to record one program while watching another, a task that is not possible on current generation digital recorders such as ReplayTV and TiVo without the use of external tuners.

The unit will feature DIRECTV's Advanced Program Guide (APG) which will allow users to view program listings up to 14 days in advance. The APG will allow searches by title, subject matter or category.

Microsoft WebTV Networks, Inc. is providing the enhanced TV portion of the product which will allow the user to record up to 30 hours of video, and to pause live TV. The user can also show instant replays, slow motion, and can skip ahead, fast forward and rewind, similar to a VCR or similar products like TiVo, ReplayTV or WebTV's earlier venture with the DISH Network and their Echostar DISHPlayer. One feature exclusive to the UltimateTV is true picture-in-picture that will allow two video signals to be displayed. The Echostar unit only allowed a video signal and the WebTV Internet world to be displayed.

Users of the WebTV Plus or the Echostar unit will be familiar with the Interactive TV capabilities that will let users play at home to Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune, or enjoy other interactive TV events.

Although the Internet is de-emphasized in the marketing of this product, it is expected to have all the Internet functionality of the WebTV Plus.

The unit will sport digital audio output capability, a standard V.90-capable modem, and two USB ports that are planned to support, in addition to printers, advanced peripherals including keyboards and broadband network interfaces such as external DSL modems.

The RCA DS4290RE package includes a digital satellite receiver, an 18-inch satellite dish antenna with dual output LNB and a Master Touch universal remote control. The receiver and remote control will also be sold as a stand-alone unit (DWD490RE) for consumers who already have DIRECTV service. An optional wireless keyboard accessory is available for more convenient e-mail and Internet access.

Thomson also signed a deal with the largest hard drive maker Seagate to produce storage for home video products, including digital video recorders and high definition digital televisions.

On July 11, 2000, the companies announced an equally owned joint venture to form an independent company, called CacheVision, which will provide storage systems for home consumer electronics. CacheVision will begin operation in San Jose, California, to develop storage technologies that major electronics manufacturers can quickly integrate into their products. The first prototype is expected by the end of the year, with final products at the beginning of 2001. CacheVision will soon employ approximately 100 people.

CacheVision will combine hardware decompression, hard drive storage, electronic program guides, a graphical user interface for navigation, and a preference engine that will help user find shows they would like to watch based on viewing habits. The industry is calling this the personal TV concept, where embedded software learns individual programming preferences, and automatically manages storage and replay functions. IDC estimate that the personal TV market will grow from 1.72 million in 2000 to 12.83 million in 2003.

The CacheVision technology will not be an end-user product. Instead, the technology will be incorporated into TVs, set-top boxes, Personal Video Recorders and DVD players

"The creation of CacheVision anticipates a profound change in consumer behavior. Consumers are searching for new features, such as time shifting and services on demand, permitted by the integration of storage capacity in consumer electronics products, leading ultimately to the advent of personal television," said Thierry Breton, Chairman and CEO of THOMSON multimedia. "We intend to provide answers that consumers expect for information storage capacity in a wide range of products. This new activity should rapidly reach a worldwide leadership position."

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