Apple's DVR work could mean no stand-alone future for Web video recorders

John Shinal · March 20, 2008 · Short URL:

 We often hear investors talking about the difference between technologies that have the potential to be the basis of an entire company and those that will most likely end up as features inside the platforms of larger companies.

A report on AppleInsider late last week that Apple has filed patents for what looks like DVR technology tells us that, within a few short years, recording Web-based video will be a table-stakes feature built into the hardware of large digital entertainment companies.

That means the most likely viable future for firms working on related Web video technologies will be as part of larger companies, rather than as stand-alone survivors.

We've seen this before in the traditional TV world. TiVo and its stock were doing reasonably well until the cable giant Comcast said it would build DVR features into the set-top boxes it gives customers for its digital on-demand service.

Place-shifting then went the same route as time-shifting when SlingMedia was acquired by satellite cable provider EchoStar.

While it's still early days for Apple's foray into TV,  the patent applications suggest that Apple intends to expand the features of its AppleTV to include recording and programming. That programming could conceivably be live broadcast or cable fare or archived content from its iTunes sight.

If Apple gets the DVR technology right, it wouldn't be much of a leap to see it appear in its hand held devices.

That would raise the pressure on Vudu to provide a feature that lets users record and pause live video, rather than streaming existing programs. The maker of a slick digital media box that lets users buy or rent movies and shows and watch them on their TV, without the need for a PC Internet connection. The company's simple interface and remote control have won it rave reviews, and it's got a lot of growth ahead of it.

Given the way these technologies evolve, however, Vudu and others are likely to end up supplying their technology to consumers from inside a larger rival.

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