A “No-Box” DVR

Digital video recorders — DVRs — have changed the way we watch broadcast television. TiVo is one example, but there are other products you can buy that will do much the same thing. It’s like a VHS recorder on steroids: enormous capacities, easy to access the recorded shows quickly, and you get to watch what you want when you want. The Panasonic model we have even lets us archive off shows onto a DVD-R that we then can play on any DVD player.

But this does mean that it’s one more box in the system, and more boxes mean more connections, and more connections mean more complications, and more complications lead to more support calls by end users. So Cablevision Systems is going to try a different approach for some of its Long Island, NY customers. They will let subscribers have personal storage space on the company’s central server. The company expects to charge less per month than they do now for a separate DVR.

In effect, this will give the customers the ability to build a personal library of “on-demand” programs. Some analysts predict that there may be challenges over copyright issues; consumers have the right to make recordings at home to time shift their viewing, but this storage would be provided by a centralized commercial service.

My guess is that this could be a predictor of where we’re headed. Centralized storage is inexpensive and makes a lot of sense; look at the free GMail accounts with more than 2 GB of storage. We’re entering an era where bandwidth is more expensive than storage, and the price for even that is plummeting. So who cares if your recorded shows are in a box in your living room, or somewhere down the line? If it’s easier to use, has more capacity, and costs less than having your own equipment, I expect that it will be a winner.