By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Thomson Consumer Electronics used the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA) convention to showcase its latest three-model lineup of DirecTV integrated receiver descramblers, including the first non-HDTV model with interlaced component video outputs.
Each of the new IRD boxes also offer an "advanced program guide" with more sophisticated graphics, colors and program search capabilities.
At the top of the new RCA DirecTV line is the DRD485RG, which carries a $199 suggested retail, or $249 for the DS4285RG IRD and dish system. Thomson bills the piece as the first standard-definition RCA-DirecTV receiver to incorporate component video outputs (found primarily in DVD players), providing optimal video color accuracy and detail.
The receiver also adds both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs for direct connection of surround sound signals to an A/V system receiver or other outboard Dolby Digital decoder. Other step-up features in the unit include one-button VCR record programming, and onscreen caller ID.
The two other new generation IRDs include the DRD450RG ($149 or $199 for the DS4250RG system), and the DRD404RG, which can be purchase with an 18 x 24-inch elliptical dish for a suggested retail price of $199 or with a standard 18-inch single-LNB dish for $49.
All three of the new models include the new advanced program guide, which provides channel and program title information for seven different programs starting before or ending after the time shown on the grid.
An interactive channel banner includes a new "viewing suggestions" feature that provides a list of recommended programs based on the topic and theme category of "weighted programs" and previously viewed programs. Similar in function to the intuitive program recording function of TiVo PVRs, the viewing suggestions system will allow users to schedule events to be automatically tuned, disable or enable the learning capability of the system and manually edit the topic and theme categories.
New search features will also include the ability to find upcoming programs with a favorite actor or produced by a favorite director.
Additionally, the Wink interactive service introduced in the previous generation IRDs will be carried over to the new line, Thomson said.
Also continuing in the line was the recently introduced UltimateTV combination DirecTV receiver, PVR and WebTV terminal. The product (model DS4290RE) recently received a $100 price cut to $299.
Representatives of Microsoft, which designed the system and maintains its $9.95 monthly subscription services, said all units would soon receive a software update (although an exact date of delivery was not determined).
Targeted for an early change through a satellite download will be the ability to tag recorded programs for long-term storage on the hard drive. Currently, the system will automatically delete programs after several days if the hard drive is loaded with other events.
Additionally, the company said it would change the look and feel of the WebTV home page to a new Microsoft Network (MSN) home page for WebTV users later this year.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.