This is the third version of ReplayTV software for digital video recorders, which are VCR-like devices that use a hard drive rather than videotape to record and pause live television. The set-top box, which comes in 30-hour and 60-hour versions, competes with a similar device from TiVo and an upcoming product from Microsoft's WebTV.
As previously reported, this is the company's first software that allows set-top box owners to use the Web to access the channel guides and programming stored on their digital video recorders. The new software will also allow people sitting at their PCs to search for particular shows and program their recording choices.
The introduction of the new service comes as ReplayTV faces increased competition. WebTV and AOLTV are both heading toward offering similar services. And new cable and satellite set-top boxes are also expected to offer interactive programming and digital video recording.
"This breakthrough version of the ReplayTV service, with remote access and advanced capabilities, makes the television experience more fun, more convenient, and more entertaining," Jim Hollingsworth, senior vice president of sales, said in a statement today.
ReplayTV representatives were not available for further comment. It's unclear whether current set-top box owners can take advantage of the new software.
Eventually, Mountain View, Calif.-based ReplayTV plans to create a type of Internet portal that will store all news, schedules and information related to someone's favorite programming. This will help provide the type of interactivity and personalization that analysts say is necessary to lure customers to the relatively expensive gadgets.
ReplayTV's set-top boxes range from $499 to $799. Unlike TiVo, however, ReplayTV does not charge a monthly subscription fee.
Still, analysts say these price tags may be too high to attract anyone other than gadget lovers who will always be attracted to the latest technology.
Perhaps mindful of this, ReplayTV has several current promotions, including a $100 rebate off the cost of the hardware.
TiVo and ReplayTV currently have fewer than 70,000 customers between them and will have a hard time building a larger customer base, according to TechTrends, a market research firm that recently released a survey of the digital video recorder market.
The TechTrends study found that 44 percent of cable subscribers and 50 percent of satellite subscribers are willing to pay for a separate monthly subscription for digital video recording service, but are turned off by the high price of the separate set-top box.
In August, ReplayTV cited poor market conditions when it delayed its initial public offering, which had been set for later this year. In its filing, ReplayTV said that it had an accumulated deficit of $62.3 million as of March 31 and that it expects to post significant operating losses during the next several years.