Hard Drives Will Soon Plug into DVRs
When San Francisco resident Keith Abrams ordered his digital video recorder from TiVo, 40 hours of recording time seemed an enormous amount. But Abrams and his roommate saved far more episodes of favorite shows than they had anticipated, and the resulting storage crunch means he can record fewer shows than he'd like. This familiar scenario is eyed as an opportunity by storage vendors.
Maxtor and Seagate Technology are among the makers of external hard drives who hope to cash in on the growing need for extra digital video recorder (DVR) storage. Both vendors plan to work with cable and satellite providers to develop and market external hard drives for DVRs from companies like TiVo and Echostar.
About 4.2 million DVRs shipped worldwide in 2003, with about half that number selling in the U.S., according to market research from IDC. Last year, shipments to the U.S. grew by 180 percent, IDC analysts say.
Most DVRs available today provide a minimum of 40 hours of storage. DVRs with higher capacities are available, but when people buy their device they don't usually understand how quickly their DVRs will fill up, says Rob Pait, Seagate's director of global consumer electronics marketing.
Abrams and his roommate didn't realize how much extra storage capacity would be used by higher-quality versions of their favorite shows, he says in an e-mail interview.
Demand Will Grow
As more consumers switch to high-definition television (HDTV) services, storage requirements will skyrocket, Pait notes. HDTV programs can take up to nine times the storage capacity of conventional programs, he says.
Adding a larger internal hard drive isn't something most users of consumer electronics products are comfortable doing on their own, Pait notes. Also, satellite and cable providers do not want to train support technicians or make house calls to upgrade hard drives on DVRs, he says.
TiVo allows users to upgrade their boxes using kits with step-by-step directions to open the DVR and install the new hard drive. TiVo customers can also send their DVRs to the company for upgrades.
But both Maxtor and Seagate believe the cable and satellite operators now entering the market will want to offer external storage products. The advantage: Consumers can simply plug them into the back of an existing DVR without opening the case, sending the machine back to the manufacturer, or coordinating a service call.
Seagate plans to work with service providers as well as set-top box manufacturers such as Scientific Atlanta to ensure its external drives work with existing DVRs and forthcoming products, Pait says. The company outlined its plans for the market and demonstrated several devices at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association show in New Orleans this week.
Last week, Maxtor unveiled the QuickView Expander external drive, designed for DVRs. It will hold 160GB and is expected to ship early in the third quarter, says David Barron, Maxtor's director of digital entertainment. Pricing is not yet disclosed.
Maxtor will sell QuickView Expander products online to consumers as well as through cable and satellite providers, Barron says.
Need Has Evolved
External hard drives are a popular storage upgrade option for PC users, says Stephen Baker, director of industry analysis with NPD Techworld. Sales of external hard drives for PCs are growing more quickly than internal hard drives as consumers seek easy ways to store their growing libraries of digital pictures and video, he says.
Contributing to this growth are standards such as USB 2.0 and Firewire, which support faster transfer rates between PCs and external storage devices, Baker notes.
Seagate and Maxtor are working with set-top box manufacturers to make sure their DVRs ship with support for at least one of those two standards. TiVo's Series2 DVRs have USB 2.0 ports that will be able to take advantage of external storage units, Maxtor's Barron says.
The consumer electronics world also wants to solve the storage problem for DVR users. A coalition of companies led by Sanyo, Pioneer, and Sharp has developed a standard for a portable hard drive that can plug into both PCs and consumer electronics devices.
A product based on the Information Versatile Disk for Removable usage (IVDR) standard is expected to ship later this year from IO Data Devices. That product will come with 20GB of storage and will use the USB 2.0 standard to transfer data.