EchoStar Debuts DishPlayer
According to a recent announcement, the DishPlayer is a combination computer/Internet terminal/satellite receiver/hard-disk recorder/video-system controller that will allow users an "unprecedented" degree of freedom and versatility in customizing their home entertainment. Developed in conjunction with WebTV parent company Microsoft and first announced as the Model 7100, the DishPlayer promises to "revolutionize the TV-viewing experience by integrating EchoStar's DISH Network digital-satellite television programming with Internet TV experience from WebTV Networks."
Although other companies like TiVo and ReplayTV have introduced hard-disk video recorders recently, EchoStar's new offering is the first of what might be a new genre of consumer electronics: smart home-entertainment devices. The DishPlayer's built-in "ultrafast" 8.6GB hard drive is capable of simultaneously recording and playing "full-quality" digital video. One of its most alluring features is TV Pause, which lets viewers walk away from a show for up to 30 minutes and resume watching when they are ready. The company claims a recording capacity of "several hours of high-quality digital video." Users can also download video games via satellite. The video-recording feature will be active later this year, when WebTV Plus and EchoStar satellite services are upgraded.
An electronic programming guide (EPG) offers a feature called TV Search, which lets viewers find subjects of interest from detailed online TV listings. The EPG also links Internet content with TV programming in the listings, "enhancing" such programming with additional information. According to a May 24 press release, the DishPlayer will "accelerate the market for interactive television products and services."
"We are making television history," says Steve Perlman, president and co-founder of WebTV Networks. "By combining the high-speed digital video and data capability of DISH Network satellites, the WebTV Networks' Internet service, and a massive disk drive with hours of digital-video storage, the DishPlayer brings an unprecedented level of choice, control, and quality to the TV-viewing experience. We believe that history will look back upon this product as the first 21st-century television receiver."
Twenty thousand DishPlayers are currently being shipped to dealers nationwide, to go on sale in June at a steeply discounted price of $199---$300 off the original suggested list price of $499. The giveaway pricing is taken from the cellular phone model: Forget about profits on hardware---the real revenue stream is the service. WebTV Plus will be included in the monthly fee of $24.95. The promotional price is good through September 30, 1999.