Yahoo's free software turns PC into DVR

System uses a PC to transform a television into a digital video recorder, DVD player, stereo and photo viewer.

Yahoo has released a beta version of software that turns a PC into a digital video recorder.

The software, Yahoo Go for TV, is free to download. After the software is installed, people plug their computer into their television's video and audio input connections. The computer can then record and play back shows on the TV just like with a standalone DVR. Consumers can also play DVDs, music, photos or other downloaded content.

The cost of a few cables and TV tuner card, in comparison with the hundreds of dollars being shelled out for DVD players or DVRs, could lure consumers away from DVR competitors like TiVo. And many industry leaders see TV-computer combinations as the portal for reaching consumers.

Microsoft said recently that its Windows XP Media Center software is outselling the standard edition of the software, and Hewlett-Packard announced last year that it is developing technology to let high-definition televisions directly access digital content from home computers.

The Yahoo software, as of yet, only runs on Windows and requires a computer with 20GB of disk space to store recorded programs, 512MB of RAM and a 1GHz processor.

The DVR feature on Go for TV also requires a TV tuner card and connector cables for connecting to a TV monitor. Yahoo also suggests using a remote control, which usually comes standard with the purchase of most TV tuner cards. While the software works with any TV signal, Yahoo recommends a 1.5mbps broadband connection for best results.

Television listings are provided via a Yahoo Go for TV interface. Users are prompted to give their ZIP code during setup, so that the proper service provider can be chosen. Yahoo Go for TV updates the listings daily. Those who already use TiVo can still use the Go for TV digital video recording feature by simply connecting each component to a different video input outlet. One system will not interfere with the other, as long as they each have access to the TV signal.

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The Yahoo Go for TV software works in conjunction with many of Yahoo's other Yahoo Go media products, such as Yahoo Launchcast, a radio and music subscription service, and Flickr, Yahoo's photo-sharing site. In addition, Go for TV lets people view photos from any online service and to listen to music from CDs or digital-music libraries already stored on the linked computer.

Last week, Yahoo announced its purchase of Meedio's technology and intellectual property. Houston-based Meedio's software integrates videos, photos and music for digital home media systems. At the time of the announcement, some industry watchers speculated that Meedio would enable Yahoo to offer this very type of system.

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