Sony recently showed a new device concept which can simultaneously record seven television channels, function as a standard personal computer and a predictor of the type of functionality likely to be incorporated into home entertainment systems in the not-too-distant future. Since it was first launched seven years ago, the VAIO brand has always sought to combine computing with digital entertainment. The name itself is an acronym for “Video Audio Integrated Operation” and Sony officials are currently on a worldwide roadshow to promote and extend the brand to include an array of network-connected devices that will combine the best qualities of AV and IT products to allow people to enjoy entertainment content anywhere and anytime. As part of Sony's VAIO roadshow, it has been showing a number of concept products likely to excite even the most cynical technophile. The most exciting is the VAIO Type X which can best be described as a combined Family Digital Video Recorder, a wireless home entertainment server and a PC on steroids. The Type X is the first mega-PVR machine and demonstrates an entirely new way of thinking, offering the ability to record seven TV channels simultaneously with a massive storage space of over one terabyte – that’s a thousand Gigabytes. Whereas previous DVR machines have been portrayed in terms of the number of hours of TV shows which can be recorded, the Type X appears to be based on an entirely different premise – that if you record everything, you can discard the bits you don’t want later. One of the problems associated with using a digital video recorder is choosing the programs to record and remembering to set the machine to record them. With a terabyte of storage, the Type X enables an entire week of TV viewing on seven channels to be recorded for the convenience of time-shifting. Other possibilities include the ability to record all the different camera angles available on a sporting event from digital television, or to record lots of HDTV programs at maximum quality. The defining colour of the new VAIO range is black, so it’s not surprising that the Type X is also black. Though the specifications of the machine are not yet finalised, Sony’s Senior General Manager of the E-Marketing & Solutions Division, Kunimasa Suzuki, said the Type X was likely to become available prior to the end of 2004. One feature very likely to be incorporated into the Type X when it finally lands, will be the ability to program recording activities online. In the UK, Sony is already cooperating with online electronic program guide http://www.tvtv.co.uk to enable recording of television programmes from remote locations via the net. The user logs on to the online service from any location and selects a programme to record. The EPG then automatically notifies the home server when online and starts recording the programme accordingly. So if, for example, the user is overseas, they can still ensure their weekly fix of CSI or Friends will be safely stored on the VAIO system hard disk when they return home. Other functionality of the Type X is conjecture – Sony repeatedly cited an unfinalised specification and specification whenquestioned about potential features.
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