Digital TV battle looms as second free-to-air box joins fray

Hauppauge is to take on Pace Microsystems with a set-top box that will let owners record programmes onto their PC hard disk

Although the future of ITV Digital remains bleak, the prospect for viewers has brightened considerably with a second company joining Pace in the free-to-air set-top box market. Hauppauge, previously known for its range of TV adaptors for PCs, has revealed some details of its first stand-alone product. The box, as yet unnamed, receives all non-subscription digital TV channels and plays them through any SCART-equipped TV.

It also has an infrared remote control -- and unlike the Pace box contains an analogue teletext decoder and, more interestingly, a USB interface. This will work in conjunction with a PC for hard disk recording of programmes, pausing of live transmissions and control of the box from software, although these functions may not be available at launch. Likewise, although the box has a CI-interface for adding subscriber services these too may have to wait for future software upgrades.

The price is as yet undecided: £99.99 has been quoted, but ZDNet UK understands a higher price is also being considered. The company is on record as saying that it wants to get the box into the shops by the time of the start of the World Cup -- which kicks off on 31 May -- but a spokesman declined to comment further. Working boxes have been seen in action, and retain the company's reputation for idiosyncratic styling.

No detail of the launch, distribution or upgrade schedule was available from Hauppauge at the time of writing.

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