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TV features in fast forward

SOURCE: Orange County Register, The (Santa Ana, CA)
If Kip Simonson has his way, Cox Communications subscribers will be able to pause a recorded high-definition TV show in one room and watch the ending in the master bedroom. Or in the kids' room. Or in the family room. Or in all four rooms simultaneously.
And each room can pause, rewind and watch a different part of the same show without disrupting viewers in other rooms.
Simonson, a technology consultant to Cox, recently demonstrated Motorola's "Follow Me" technology and other new services at Cox's headquarters in Rancho Santa Margarita. While many technologies have been available for years, consumers are only now asking for them, Simonson said.
"We've had all of these products in search of a consumer," said Simonson, who has spent more than 20 years in the cable industry.
Cox isn't alone. Last week, Verizon introduced its fiber-optic TV service called FiOS TV to Orange County. FiOS offers nearly the same number of channels, plus a lot of extras that cable users may not be used to, such as on-screen widgets to quickly see the temperature, a link to YouTube and easy access to photos on an attached computer.
And Time Warner Cable has been upgrading its network to handle the ultimate video-on-dema! nd service. Someday its subscribers will be able to watch many shows they missed – and forgot to record – up to 24 hours later.
The roundup of what's new and coming:
TV anytime in any room: Verizon calls its product Home Media DVR or Multi-room DVR. Cox, which hasn't launched its product yet, refers to it as "whole home DVR." The similar technologies vary slightly in the services they offer.
The Follow Me service Cox demonstrated consists of one digital video recorder that feeds up to three boxes anywhere in the house. Every box can access recorded shows – even high-definition TV – from the single DVR. Live or recorded programs can be viewed in up to four rooms simultaneously.
All the boxes are connected directly to the main feed from the cable company and can attain the high transfer speeds using a home networking standard called Multimedia over Coax Alliance, or MoCA. It can share high-quality multimedia at speeds exceeding ! 100 megabits per second. Users can replace the regular boxes in the other rooms with dual-tuner DVRs, allowing them to record and share 8 shows at the same time.
The Cox Zone: Expected to launch in the next few months, Cox will offer at least three"mega" channels that show what's playing on six other channels in thumbnail-like screens "so customers can monitor the feeds," Simonson said. The channels will be dedicated to sports, news and kids' shows. Select any of the six screens to hear audio from that channel.
Start Over and Look Back: If you get home late and start watching TV 15 minutes into a show, the Start Over feature (coming to O.C. this fall from Time Warner) goes back to the start of the show. This is independent of a digital recorder. All you'll need is a digital cable box. One catch: No fast forwarding. That was the only way Time Warner could get agreements from 35 channels. Soon after Start Over launches, Time Warner also hopes to roll out Look Back, which is similar but will take you back 24 hours to watch other! missed shows.
Cable TV cell phones: Cox, Comcast, Time Warner and others all got together to make an agreement with Sprint to offer certain TV services on a cell phone. The Pivot service lets cable subscribers access their TV listings, check e-mail and program their home DVR on the phone – and even watch certain cable channels live. Cox already sells its own branded cell phones in San Diego and hopes to launch its service in Orange County this year. Time Warner expects to launch this year, too.
Home automation: Using the Internet to see what's going on at your house when you're not there is a service available from quite a few security companies, such as iControl Networks in Palo Alto. Sensors and webcams placed strategically in the house will let you know when someone breaks in to the liquor cabinet, when the sink is leaking and who's at the front door. Cox plans to test this service in south Orange County. This would be full service with installation an! d upkeep all part of the cable bill.
Complete integration: Now t hat phone companies are offering TV and Internet service, and TV companies are offering Internet and phone service, the three technologies are merging. The phone number from an incoming call will pop up on the TV so you can decide whether to answer the phone. Cox showed a demo of how you can listen to voice mail using your television.
Interactive TV: The buzz word of the 1990s that never came to be. We still can't watch a TV commercial and hit the remote to visit the company's Web site. But companies continue to experiment.
The latest incarnation is a transparent overlay that sits on top of the current channel you're viewing, similar to the first-down lines in a football game. The added information could be traffic and weather reports, sports scores and stock prices.
BY PHONE: Cox Cable recently teamed with Sprint to offer a branded cell phone that lets users program their home DVR over the cellular network.
Copyright 2007 The Orange County Register
Record Number: 105992791