Musing on Cablevision's RS-DVR

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Cablevision is going to debut their Remote-Storage DVR this summer. This is a DVR with no hard drive. Instead, the content you record will be saved on Cablevision's remote servers. PC World has all the details.

It's an interesting idea. The customer has no hardware to fail, one less device quietly inflating the electric bill 24 hours a day (or at least, inflating it less with no hard drive to spin) and content would be available at every cable drop in the house. The big downside is that apparently you won't be able to fast forward past commercials. How does that work, I wonder? Can you fast forward through other parts of the show? If so, how does the thing 'know' you're in a commercial and disable the Fast Forward feature? That's a little creepy. I wonder if what is really meant is that there's no instant skip forward, a la the Tivo's hidden 30-second forward jump?

I'm also trying to imagine the server end of things. When I tell the RS-DVR to 'record' Lost what is really happening in the server farm? Is a decision made to actually record Lost, or is everything already recorded and now I'm just flagged to be able to access it? It seems ridiculous that Cablevision's servers would record a separate copy of a show for every subscriber; we could all watch the same copy. So since every show has a least some fans, virtually every show will end up recorded on their servers. And following that, if every show is already recorded, why bother to make me schedule a recording of it? And why limit how many simultaneous shows I can access? And once I can watch anything any time, why do I need the standard cable service at all?

I'm speculating, but it seems like this service almost has to have a bunch of totally arbitrary limitations put in place in order to protect 'regular' cable. And if that is the case, how long until some service comes along that doesn't include those limitations? Could this be the beginning of the end of cable TV? Instead of a show being broadcast at 8 pm on Wednesday nights, it'd uploaded to the remote servers at 8 pm on Wednesday nights. What do you think? Am I missing something in my reasoning?

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