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FireWired up for PVRs

Disk drive manufacturer Quantum Corp. and Panasonic parent Matsushita Electric have developed an audio/video hard-drive subsystem for the personal video recorder (PVR) that uses the IEEE 1394, or "FireWire," multimedia connection. The companies say the new drive technology, called the 1394 Quantum QuickView, will accelerate the PVR market by providing for digital copy protection and allowing PVRs to be networked to other home devices.

Quantum, which supplies the hard drives for all TiVo and Replay PVRs currently manufactured, has been working with Panasonic since April 1999 on developing new disk-drive technology. The companies have already created DV Editor, a consumer nonlinear editor sold by Panasonic, and Panasonic hopes to incorporate Quantum's 1394 drive technology into consumer products that will begin shipping this year. The QuickView drive will also be available to other consumer electronics manufacturers.

The only obstacle to QuickView's commercial rollout is the ongoing debate over digital content protection between Hollywood studios and consumer electronics manufacturers, says Dr. Paul Liao, chief technology officer for Panasonic. The most likely content protection, he says, is 5C, or the Digital Transmission Content Protection standard, which is supported by Matsushita, Sony, Intel, Hitachi and Toshiba.

Besides providing robust copy protection, using 1394 in the drive also permits a simplified, more cost-effective architecture, according to Bentley Nelson, Quantum's manager of strategic and technical marketing. "The subsystem is capable of recording, storing and playing back multiple video programs without a host," he explains.

The QuickView subsystem, he says, could find its way into cable set-top boxes and digital TVs as well as standalone PVRs.

Stand-alone PVRs might not necessarily include a FireWire output, however. "A lot of that is still being worked out among the industry players and standards organizations," Nelson says. "What we see is there are two different perspectives: the functionality that 1394 enables versus the connectivity that 1394 delivers. It's possible to build a device that has 1394 internally but never have it port to the outside world."

For Liao, however, 1394's networking capability was "a key element" in its development effort with Quantum. Like other CE manufacturers, Panasonic sees 1394 as a way to link audio/video devices in the home. The company has already installed FireWire connections on its DV camcorder, DTV set-top and D-VHS digital tape recorder.