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Monday, October 18, 2004
Digital recorders make inroads - Computer companies want tapeless technology to make VCRs obsolete

The giants of the computer industry and consumer electronics are battling for control of the home entertainment universe. In the process, they are resorting to a common strategy

-- persuading couch potatoes to junk their old VCRs and switch to new tapeless digital video recorder technologies.

Indeed, couch potatoes will have many more options available for the holiday buying season to replace their dusty stacks of analog video tapes, even though average viewers don't fully understand all the features that are possible with digital video.

In the past year, companies that have long controlled home entertainment, like Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, JVC and Pioneer, have begun filling store shelves with new DVD players that can also record shows on blank DVDs.

Cable companies like Comcast have also begun offering a TiVo-style digital video recorder to beef up service to compete with satellite TV services like DirecTV.

Last week, computer industry powerhouses like Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett- Packard and Dell rolled out a new generation of personal entertainment computers and related devices capable of recording TV shows on hard drives for viewing on any number of home and portable devices.

Not to be outdone by the competition, TiVo Inc. -- the Bay Area firm whose name has become synonymous with digital video recording -- introduced a new $400 model that combines TiVo's signature personal video recording service with both a hard drive for temporary recording and a DVD recorder to create a permanent copy.

"This is the first one that is really a replacement for the VCR,'' said Bob Poniatowski, a TiVo product marketing manager.

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