Dataquest senior analyst P.J. McNealy said the free service, scheduled for release in the fall, is a sign that consumer electronics manufacturers are beginning to "get" the Web.
"Before, manufacturers were adding the Web as a feature because everyone else was," McNealy said. "Now, they're figuring out how the Web will enable their services to be better."
- Called MyReplayTV, the new feature will operate like a remote control, allowing users to tell their recorders which programs to record and when.
It makes perfect sense, according to ReplayTV vice president Steve Shannon, who said users should be able to control an Internet appliance over the Internet.
"We see this as a key differentiator for our system and it will appeal to our tech-savvy audience," Shannon said.
So far, ReplayTV has appealed to early adopters. But Shannon said the new feature was designed for a broader audience. It will seem familiar to anyone who uses a Web browser.
McNealy expects the feature will become a standard for all digital video recorders. He predicted the next step would be for users to be able to use e-mail messages to program their devices.
Analysts have said that TiVo has a slight edge over ReplayTV in the race to dominate the digital video recorder industry. The winner will likely be the company with the most alliances with content providers.
TiVo officials plan to release a similar feature next year as part of its larger Internet strategy.
"But modem-based systems now are too primitive. The core of our strategy will come out with larger bandwidth," said TiVO's Chief Technology Officer Jim Barton. Nevertheless, the company plans to provide services for modem users.
TiVo is also addressing issues ReplayTV has chosen to ignore, Barton said, citing privacy as an example. With information about users' programming tastes, advertisers could spam viewers. Barton said TiVo will also support the AOLTV platform in 2001, a strategic move he said would provide access to a large mainstream audience.