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Pace demos set-top box with 20 gig hard drive

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Set-top boxes are supposed to be cheap, simple devices that allow you to watch TV and - at some point, Real Soon Now - interact, right? But Pace Micro Technology seems to be turning the concept around with the demonstration of a unit with a built-in 20 gigabyte hard drive. The point of integrating a hard drive into a set-top box, says Pace, is to allow network operators "to develop radical new services and ways of generating revenue." The device Pace is showing in Los Angeles this week at the Western Cable Show is a joint development with NDS, and is intended to support NDS' extended television (XTV) concept. This will use smart software to select and store programming, and allow a considerable amount of personalisation of services. On the slightly less vague front, the hard disk can be used to time-shift watching, so if the phone rings you can press pause on a live broadcast, at which point the data is spooled onto the hard disk, and then you carry on watching, but maybe 15 minutes behind the broadcast itself, when you press resume. The storage also allows instant replays, slow motion and - here's a couple of interesting ones - "targeted advertising, and downloading peak-time programming to free up bandwidth." Presumably that means you get your own personalised ads downloaded to your own set-top box hard disk, so they can be broadcast (Not) just for you. And if we understand the second bit right, stuff you want to watch at peak time can be downloaded to your hard disk in the middle of the night, and then you can think you're watching it live later. Or something. ®

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