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The Dish on Dish, Part I

11:30 AM -- Future enhancements are on the way.

EchoStar Satellite LLC 's DISH Network still won't say why it put an Ethernet port on the back of its newest high-end receiver, the ViP 622. All that is known is that the port is reserved for "future enhancements," according to a company spokesman.

Both of DISH's newest receivers -- including the single-room, single-tuner VIP 211 -- come Ethernet ready. "My guess is that all new boxes will have it," a DISH spokesman told The Philter this morning.

The ViP 211, DISH's first MPEG-4 set-top, was launched in December 2005. It supports HDTV, MPEG-2 standard definition video as well. DISH launched the ViP 622 in January. It's also an MPEG-4 set-top, but it comes with dual HD decoding so it supports multiple TVs and it has a 320GB DVR baked in.

Broadcom makes the chipset for both new DISH boxes, and DISH won't say whether the rest of the unit is proprietary or the product of an OEM relationship.

We know the OEM is probably not TiVo, which is suing DISH for patent infringement. But analysts aren't that keen on TiVo's chances. Brian Coyne, cable analyst at Friedman Billings Ramsey & Co. Inc. today wrote:

In the event of any TiVo patent victory against EchoStar at trial, we think (a) a potential cash award may not be that large, (b) TiVo would not likely realize any cash near-term, and (c) its ability to extend a victory to others is limited.

Quick review of the 622: It performs very well. It doesn't do anything a TiVo can't already do, and the software isn't as sophisticated as TiVo's. Still, two-tuners and 20+ HDTV channels more than make up for the clunky menus.

The catch is you can't really separate the 622 device from the service it runs -- it's all part of one experience. That's why I think DISH's customer service problems could screw them up royally -- even with a killer, Ethernet ready set-top like the 622.

More on that later…

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

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