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Firms boost HDTV's functions

Matshushita Electric and disk drive maker Quantum say they are producing HDTVs that can record, pause, and rewind broadcasts.

Matshushita Electric and disk drive maker Quantum say they will show HDTVs that can record, pause, and rewind broadcasts at the upcoming National Association of Broadcaster's convention in April.

Matshushita Electric, which markets products under brand names such as Panasonic, is expected to use specialized hard disk drives from Quantum initially in a "home video editing console" that lets users manipulate and store images without a PC.

Without specifying a release date, Panasonic said it plants to offer an HDTV receiver that could pause, replay, and search digital broadcasts. DTVs sold today are basically monitors that come with a separate set-top receiver costing between $1,000 and $3,000 that tunes DTV signals. The price of the TV and the receiver together typically cost $5,000 and up.

At those prices, the market won't be a huge one for Quantum, but the deal symbolizes how disk makers are moving into markets beyond the PC to begin to insulate themselves from brutal conditions in the PC market.

Yesterday, for instance, Seagate announced it was taking a $50 to $60 million resructuring charge to restructure worldwide operations. And last year, disk makers slogged through an industrywide oversupply of storage devices and plummeting prices for desktop computers that resulted in huge losses for most.

Already, devices that use hard disk drives to store information are appearing on the market. Replay Networks and TiVo are readying digital television recording systems that employ hard disk drives in the hopes the devices will replace today's traditional home videocassette recorders.

Also, Sony is working with Western Digital to "home servers" that dish up video and data to devices in the home.

While Quantum's efforts to reach out to consumer electronics companies should eventually result in increased sales, some analysts aren't so sure about whether products like the unit Panasonic is envisioning will ever sell well.

Panasonic's plan: combine TV tuning and advanced features in the main TV unit.

Strategy Analystics said in a report that only 6 percent of US households by the year 2005 will own a device that integrates digital TV tuning into the TV itself.

Over 60 percent will, however, own digital set-top boxes that perform these and other functions because, the report said, separate devices are easier to upgrade as the technologies mature.