CES - Comcast, Panasonic unveil portable DVR

At CES, Comcast and Panasonic unveiled a new portable DVR device.

In a departure for the Consumer Electronics Show, the keynote address on Tuesday came from a company that doesn't build any consumer electronics products.

But cable service provider Comcast, whose top executive addressed the crowd in Las Vegas, offers the key content delivery mechanism for some electronics gear, like the new HD TVs on display across the show floor.

Brian Roberts, Comcast's chairman and CEO, said that an increasing number of gadgets in the future may be associated with his cable network because of the OpenCable Applications Platform technology that has been adopted by many of the leading cable product vendors, including Panasonic, Samsung, Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Motorola, Tivo, Sun, LG Electronics and others. Rebranded at CES as Tru2Way, the technology allows any developer to build applications and devices that will work across any cable system that supports the standard.

As an example of the kind of new devices the standard enables, Roberts, along with Toshihiro Sakamoto, president of Panasonic's AVC Networks company, unveiled a set-top box that users can take with them. The device, about the size of a portable DVD viewer, detaches from a dock and has a flip-up screen. Cable customers can record programs to the device like a regular DVR (digital video recorder) and then carry it on a plane or in the back seat of a car to watch shows they have recorded.

Roberts also cited other examples of Tru2Way's impact, such as Microsoft's intention to add set-top box technology to its Media Center software, so users won't need to combine a separate box with their computer, and Panasonic building set-top boxes into its TVs.

Comcast also introduced a new Web site, Fancast, designed to be a centralized content site where visitors can stream television programs, schedule recordings of programs and buy movie tickets. In the future, when Comcast builds out a higher-speed network, customers will be able to buy and download movies from the site.

Over the next two years, Comcast expects to boost network download speeds to 100M bps, Roberts said. That would allow a user to download a two-hour, 20-minute HD movie in four minutes, he said.

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Nancy Gohring

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