DVRs Go Mainstream
By Cliff Roth
TiVo deserves mucho credit for popularizing the concept of digital disk-drive video recording, and giving it a friendly face and name that has become almost as synonymous with what it represents as Kleenex was to tissues and Xerox was to photocopies in a bygone era. But TiVo has never been the only game in town, and these days name recognition alone isn't going to cut it in an increasingly crowded market. Personal video recorders, or PVRs—also known as hard disk recorders (HDRs) and digital video recorders (DVRs)—are becoming an integral part of home entertainment systems everywhere. It's a given that your customers will want one—provided you can properly show its benefits.
Even in the early days, back in the late 90s, TiVo never had a monopoly on the concept of tapeless TV recording: Arch-rival Replay, now owned by D&M Holdings, actually came to market simultaneously, with a product that many considered superior. Echostar—parent of DishTV—has more DVRs currently deployed than TiVo, although few outside of the Dish Network know it. And even as far back as Windows 98, PCs have had the ability to function as digital TV recorders. But TiVo always had the edge when it came to marketing pizzazz, public recognition, overall slickness and simplicity.
Today TiVo faces even more competition. Increasingly, "TiVo-like" functionality is being built right into cable TV and satellite TV set-top boxes too. Though these don't always have as good an interface, particularly in terms of look and feel, as TiVo has, they make up for it with two very big advantages: ease of installation, and in some cases, no monthly fees.
A DVR BY ANY OTHER NAME
TiVo describes its system as a PVR, or personal video recorder. The company trademarked this, so no other manufacturers officially use the term PVR, though many consumers and salespeople do. In the early days, Replay called their device a "Personal Television Server," though the acronym was never in play. DVR is the term most cable and satellite providers use.