Remember ReplayTV? The erstwhile TiVo competitor dropped out of the set-top box market last December to focus on developing Windows-based software for Hauppauge TV capture cards. Now the company has released its first PC product, an eponymous US$99.95 software package. The PR machine is revving up already in support of the DVR-slash-media-center software:
We’ve created an affordable DVR that lets everyone in the home enjoy TV on the computer. We at ReplayTV consider ourselves true “TV fanatics,” and after seven years in the DVR business, our new PC Edition is everything we’ve always wanted to provide for our customers—and for ourselves!” said Bill Loewenthal, ReplayTV’s vice president and general manager.
Before you get all excited, you should know that the product won’t hit store shelves until September. When it does, it will be as a standalone product just begging for a compatible TV card, or bundled with select Hauppauge cards as a 30-day free trial. The first year of programming service will be free, but if you want to use it after that, expect to pony up $19.95 annually.
Without test driving the package, it’s hard to say how good it might be. The features look all right on paper, especially if you throw in a couple of copies of ReplayTV Companion to sling your content around your house to other PCs. The system requirements are rather low: a 1.3GHz P4 with 256 MB of memory will do, but you’ll need either a Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-150 or a WinTV-PVR USB2 to enjoy the TV functionality.
None of this sounds radically different from what MythTV or Windows MCE can do, nor appreciably better. If there is one redeeming feature in the ReplayTV offering, it would have to be the company’s complete disregard for the threat of lawsuits from the entertainment industry. Company officials say that copying saved shows onto DVDs or publishing them on the Internet will be possible, though not built-in. And if you pick up the Hauppauge bundle, the tuner card comes with a remote equipped to skip 30-second commercials with the push of a convenient button.
The big TV studios are no strangers to attacking commercial-skipping features, and it will be fun to watch how ReplayTV handles the controversy, should their product prove popular enough to pose any kind of threat. But for one thing, chances are that few will feel the need to leave TiVo or MCE solutions in favor of this thing. And for another, MCE already comes with the handy commercial-skipping remote, and even that hasn’t proven popular enough to stir the studios from their slumber.
When the real thing is available for testing, I’d be thrilled to see amazing features and an interface that would put Apple or TiVo to shame, and in that case I’d stand corrected. But the proof is in the pudding, and it’s not quite ready to eat yet.