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Comcast, Panny Polishing Portable DVR

LAS VEGAS -- 2009 International CES -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC) are re-evaluating the original portable digital video recorder they introduced at last year's gadgetfest, and the final product could support high-definition and other features yet to be determined.

Last year, the companies showed off the AnyPlay Portable DVR, a standard-definition tru2way device that sports an integrated 60 gigabyte hard drive and a DVD/CD player. The unit's docking station is outfitted to support a range of Comcast digital video services, including video-on-demand (VoD) and the MSO's interactive program guide. (See Comcast, Panasonic Unveil Portable DVR .)

The MSO and its set-top partner are "revisiting" the product and trying to determine which features would be of the most interest to Comcast customers, a Comcast spokeswoman said.

"We are still very focused on a portable solution," she adds, noting that HD capabilities are among the new features that are under consideration. If hi-def is added, expect the unit's hard drive to store much more than 60 GBytes. At this year's show, Panasonic unveiled a portable Blu-ray player, dubbed the DMP-B15, but there's no telling yet whether the reworked P-DVR will contain such a flashy element. Panasonic has set a May launch for its portable Blu-ray.

At last year's show, a Panasonic rep told Cable Digital News that the required processing horsepower was one of the technical hurdles that prevented the initial version from handling hi-def. A year later, it appears that some of those challenges have dissipated somewhat.

When Comcast and Panasonic unveiled the P-DVR last year, they expected to launch it commercially by early 2009. With some new features on the way, the launch of the revised product will certainly emerge later than that, but Comcast is not specifying a new timeline. Panasonic officials could not be reached for additional comment.

Although the final P-DVR won't show up in early 2009, Panasonic and Comcast did manage to get two tru2way TVs (a 42-inch and a 50-inch model) off the ground late last year, offering them at select retail outlets in Denver and Chicago. (See Denver, Chicago First to Get Tru2way TVs.)

And to demonstrate that Panasonic-Comcast set-top efforts are indeed moving forward, the companies announced Wednesday that they will bring HDMI-CEC technology to a new generation of digital set-tops. HDMI-CEC, which underpins Panasonic's "Viera Link" technology, enables "single remote operation" of Panny-made Viera hi-def sets and other home entertainment components, such as Blu-ray players. Panasonic says HDMI-CEC will be standard in all 2009 Viera HDTV models as well as "select" set-tops it's building for Comcast.

So add HDMI-CEC to the list of features that could weave their way into the new and improved P-DVR.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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