Philips is developing a personalized video recorder application that learns users' viewing tastes, and that could compete with TiVo.
Philips demonstrated its prototype Personal TV Channel system, intended for PCs or set-top boxes, at the IFA international consumer electronics show in Berlin this week.
In a market that isn't exactly begging for another PVR (personalized video recorder) player, Philips believes its application fills some holes in current offerings.
One feature is the system's ability to quickly learn users' preferences and create personalized channels based on those tastes. The self-learning function is based on an algorithm developed by Philips.
"The set-up is really easy," said Jeroen Cappendijk, business development manager of Philips' Personal TV Channel product. "You just create a channel and select a program. The system monitors your zapping habits and automatically refines your channel."
TiVo offers a similar feature, TiVo Suggestions, but users must tell the system explicitly whether they like a program, and it learns and makes guesses about what else they could like based on that.
Philips' software is also able to monitor the preferences of multiple users within the same household. Each household member can create his or her own channel, or share common channels such as blockbuster movies.
The Personal TV Channel also features a premium EPG (Electronic Program Guide) service, which Philips is developing together with a number of undisclosed partners. In addition to basic TV program information, the program guide service will include additional background information on individual productions.
Also, a "unified content" function finds and records content not only from TV channels but also crawls the Internet for video services, such as YouTube, as well as podcasts.
Philips plans to target its new software application at hard-drive systems such as PCs and set-top boxes, according to Cappendijk.
The PC version will be available early next year as a free download for users of computers running Windows Vista or, depending on the computer maker, can come already installed on machines, according to Cappendijk. The product will ship to makers of set-top boxes within a year, he said.
Philips hopes to make money from the product through its personalized advertising capability.
For advertisers, the system can tailor commercials to the tastes of consumers, according to Edwin Spijkers, senior manager IP licensing at Philips. "Some consumers want to see commercials for certain products or services, like cars or vacation trips," he said. "The system can select commercials that meet their personal profile."
Cappendijk sees a market opportunity for the new Philips product despite competition from establish players like TiVo Inc. "The big issue with PVRs today is that there are so many TV channels and so much Internet content that consumers have problems finding what they really want to record," he said. "Our system is really fast at learning what they want to view and is really easy for them to use."