[opendtv] Re: Will DVD recorders succeed despite user interface problems?

  • From: Mark Aitken <maitken@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2005 11:35:47 -0500

Put < > around it and it should pass...


Manfredi, Albert E wrote:

>I'm sure the URL will get hopelessly trashed. There are two equals
>signs in it, and it's way too long. But I copied the entire
>My Philips DVDR works very well, overall. It suffered from some
>PC-like firmware glitches early on, but the firmware updates seem
>to have cured those problems. Actually, it was one of the early
>updates of the firmware that caused some strange glitches, not
>the original load.
>IMO the biggest problems are not the recorder or the software,
>which is very easy to use in my case. I see the problems being
>first that consumers aren't told what these devices do. Everyone
>knew that VCRs were great for time shifting. For unexplained
>reasons, this obvious function of DVDRs is hidden from the
>buyer. It's a secret that there's a TV tuner built in, even if
>all are analog only, as far as I can tell.
>Another problem is occasional copy protection by broadcasters,
>which I still can't tell if it's intentional or not. NBC says
>unintentional. This might be why some people think they aren't
>Another possible issue, especially among those who pride
>themselves in their inability to program a VCR, is that no
>one seems to publish VCR+ codes anymore. So you have to enter
>the info manually. Turns out that takes no longer than entering
>a weird code anyway.
>A DVDR with good 5th gen ATSC receiver built in would make a
>great STB, even if the DVDs can't record true HD.
>November 30, 2005
>Will DVD recorders succeed despite user interface problems?
>By John Barber
>Chinese manufacturers are pulling no punches with price drops
>for DVD recorders. Recent drops from Wal-Mart's private label
>brand "iLo" (actually manufactured by EastTech) to $99 are an
>indication that the DVD recorder market is finally in the
>position to take significant share away from DVD players.
>However, previous lackluster sales of DVD recorders in the
>market due to an unintuitive user interface highlight a
>significant issue that could create barriers to this volume
>potential. Most U.S. consumers are familiar with drastic
>price drops in consumer products. One of the main factors in
>this drop is the aggressive integration of semiconductor
>intellectual property into a single piece of silicon, or
>system on chip (SOC), reducing the amount of overall silicon
>and, hence, total cost of the product.
>This integration has, however, contributed to a significant
>challenge for Chinese contract manufacturers who are
>competing with low-cost DVD recordable platforms. As the
>hardware complexity and level of integration of SOC devices
>and application-specific standard products (ASSPs) has
>increased, so has the role and sophistication of the software
>embedded in these chips. The DVD recorder market's slow sales
>illustrate the problems that can arise from poorly designed
>embedded software.
>The biggest mistake that many Chinese contract manufacturers
>made is to assume that DVD recorders are just extensions of a
>DVD player. In reality, a DVD recorder is immensely more
>complicated than a player. For instance, every DVD recorder
>has a region-specific tuner and special optical properties to
>handle very complicated read/write functions. The DVD player
>handles only decoding of digital data, whereas a recorder
>must take in and process analog and digital data from the
>tuner, A/V inputs, and IEEE-1394 (Firewire) input from
>digital camcorders. The DVD recorder must also handle most,
>if not all, of the DVD media formats like DVD+R, DVD-R, and
>DVD-RW. While DVD recorder SoC hardware has been developed to
>process these formats, embedded software development has
>lagged behind, leading to lackluster sales in the retail
>channel. Even with drastic price drops, consumers are
>returning their DVD recorders at levels reaching 30% to 40%,
>often citing the hard-to-use interface (which is driven by
>the embedded software) as the reason.
>For the box manufacturers, choosing an SoC or ASSP with poor
>embedded application software can lead to severe
>consequences. Well-designed and flexible embedded software is
>vital for the success of consumer electronic devices.
>Who's to blame?
>Don't be quick to point the finger at Chinese equipment
>manufacturers for this user experience issue. In the past,
>consumer electronic manufacturers developed some of the
>embedded software themselves, but today's highly integrated
>and highly complex SoCs require a huge amount of software.
>As a result, the responsibility for developing a user
>interface now lies with the chip maker, leaving most contract
>manufacturers with primary task making only minor "look and
>feel" changes to the user interface. The user-interface layer
>of embedded software needs to control an ever-growing list of
>The user interface provided to OEMs as part of the software
>embedded in SoCs or ASSPs has been nonintuitive, resulting in
>hard-to-use products. Semiconductor vendors should include a
>fully functional, intuitive user interface in their embedded
>software. In theory, OEMs can include the unmodified user
>interface in their products, but the ultimate goal is to
>provide flexible software tools that allow contract
>manufacturers to customize the look and feel of the user
>Manufacturers of SoCs and ASSPs need to improve the quality
>of their embedded software and make it more flexible. The
>key to doing this is to use modular software design
>techniques. Well-written, modular software will also help to
>reduce costs by making it easier to reuse existing code,
>shortening the time it takes to bring new SoCs and ASSPs to
>market, and cutting software support costs.
>Some semiconductor vendors are developing an embedded Java
>and HTML interface to support new DVD recorder and set-top
>box designs. This interface will include tools the OEMs can
>use to modify an application user interface quickly and
>easily. Companies that provide dedicated Java and HTML tools
>to support such needs include Planetweb and iPanel (Embedded
>Internet Solutions).
>Tipping point
>Retailers and Chinese equipment manufacturers have responded
>to lackluster sales the only way they know how: they're
>slashing prices. Lite-On, a low-cost manufacturer of DVD
>recorders in the U.S. retail market, is expected to cut its
>price for its DVD recorder, which also features the "Easy
>Guider" menu to navigate through the various recording
>functions. Lite-On naturally claims its interface is very
>intuitive, and at such low prices, the consumer's decision
>between a DVD player and a DVD recorder is just about
>Will the DVD player or recorder win the market share? The
>ultimate test plays out this holiday season in an
>electronics store near you.
>John Barber is an analyst with Gartner Dataquest. He can be
>contacted via e-mail at john.barber@xxxxxxxxxxxx
>Reader Response
>I have returned three DVD recorders--not because of clunky
>user interfaces, but because of unreliable operation.
>The CyberHome machine which started it all is identical to
>the ilo machine mentioned in your article.
>It worked fine--when it worked, but it made too many
>"coasters" during various operations. Read more on my blog
>at: www.livejournal.com/~russj/10926.html.
>- Russ Josephson
>United States
>I can't believe it is the user interface, as the two units
>I have the firmware bugs are much worse. Are you sure only
>30% are returned? Are the rest put in the trash? One unit
>that I purchased will reset the date and time if you press
>a key at the wrong time. And the states are just not right.
>You have to eject and insert disk to get the menus to sync
>up with the correct state.
>The second unit I have, different brand, always manages to
>crash the firmware, at which point, it does not respond.
>You have to pull the plug in order to reset it! There is no
>way the average consumer can use these. I can't believe the
>people who wrote the firmware ever used these either! They
>could have done some QA to verify that the basic
>record/playback work.
>I waited too long, can no longer return these. And I haven't
>been able to find any firmware updates to fix any of the
>problems, even though this was a selling point on one of the
>- Paul
>United States
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><>   ><>   ><>   ><>   ><>   ><>   ><>

Mark A. Aitken
Director, Advanced Technology

<><   <><   <><   <><   <><   <><   <><

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