If I took one thing away from the 2012 Cable Show in Boston this year it's that the DVR you've been using will soon not only record your programming and allow you to access your provider's myriad of content, but also provide TV and possibly other services to the other TVs in your home. MSOs and third-party hardware manufacturers all want to have a home in your living room or bedroom or kitchen and each one has their own take on how it should look.
Probably the most stunning DVR I saw at the show was Comcast's Xfinity X1. Running their Dayview UI, this device breaks with everything that an MSO DVR has been in the past. A good looking, easy to use UI, apps that allow you to pull in Facebook and Pandora (so far) and on screen weather, sports and news. No other cable or satellite company is pushing their UI this far and none of the other major MSOs had anything special to demonstrate at the show.
And it may not seem like it, but the company's Skype kit and integration could actually make you want social TV. With the ability to use a picture-in-picture type system, Comcast is giving you the ability to watch TV programming with family and friends across the world. You can't share your recordings mind you but you can watch them together and comment on the show.
One type of programming I can see this being utilized in is sporting events. Whether you and your brother root for different teams which happen to be playing each other this week, or you simply want to watch the Sunday race with your friend who lives on the other side of the country, you'll now be able to hear and see their reactions as it happens. Something that just isn't possible on a phone call. Believe me, I'm not sold yet but I can see where many people might enjoy this technology.
The next device that impressed me was in the Intel booth. For a CPU manufacturer, Intel seems to understand that Cable and satellite companies not only want to give their customers new tools and features, but need to protect their content as well. One of the STBs that Intel had on display allowed the simultaneous running of two operating systems. While most consumers wouldn't even notice, running two OSs allows for some interesting possibilities. The demonstration I received from the Intel representative allowed for a cable company to run the software needed to provide and protect television content as well as act as a DVR. Along side of your standard STB/DVR software however, the company was running Android, Google's mobile OS. This allowed for full Play Store access with apps and other Android functions right on the TV.
This is where we begin to see the true home entertainment gateway. A device that allows you to not only get your TV but streaming content and even apps. All in a device that will share content around your home via extender devices. About the only question remaining is whether or not these extenders would be able to do everything that the main device can.
Intel was also showing a DVR that, like the Comcast X1, was really set to impress. Sporting six tuners and the ability to push live and recorded TV to any network connected device in your home, this device is exactly the type of thing I'm looking for to replace my current DVR. Intel demonstrated live and recorded TV streaming to PCs, tablets and phones. With no need to run wires, every member of your family could have a portable TV in every room of the house.
Motorola was also on hand showing off their HTML5 powered DVRs. Stepping away from the traditional cable provider software has allowed the company to produce a stunning UI that can quickly and easily be edited by the MSO to fit their needs. Consumers would no longer have to be stuck with a slow, boring guide. As well, Motorola showed extender devices that would work with their DVRs and push all of your content to other TVs.
Though Microsoft has been using the Xbox 360 and other devices as extenders for years now, it seems as though MSOs and third-party manufacturers are finally realizing that you can provide a better experience as well as keep costs down by following the model. While I can't be sure that 2012 will be the year that we finally have these devices in our homes, steps are being taken that will soon allow consumers to have a single DVR that feeds their content where ever they want it.