The integration of AuthorScript into set-top boxes would allow consumers not only to record DVDs, but to format them and create menus. With set-top DVD recorders now falling beneath $500, Sonic is hoping that AuthorScript CE will allow them to bridge the PC-consumer electronics gap. Set-top DVD recorders debuted in 1999 with list prices approaching $4,000. DVD recorder sales are on the rise, with Panasonic alone forecasting sales of 200,000 units in 2002, up from 24,000 in 2001. The manufacturers—predominantly Panasonic, Philips, and Pioneer—predict sales of up to 7 million units in 2005. Extrapolate those numbers to all consumer-electronic DVD recorder manufacturers, and you've got market penetration that's expanding almost as fast as DVD players did in their first five years of availability.
Beyond formatting and menus, AuthorScript CE will bring with it the ability to modify discs after they've been recorded. "Open DVD, Sonic's technology that makes DVDs revisable and updateable after they are recorded, is part of AuthorScript CE," says Sonic chief of DVD Technology and DVD Demystified author Jim Taylor. "This means users can record a disc in an AuthorScript-powered set-top DVD recorder, then put the disc in a PC running OpenDVD-compliant software to customize menus, add new recordings, trim video clips, and so on, and still have a fully compatible, full-featured DVD-Video disc that plays in every DVD player."
Sonic already made inroads into the PC market when it licensed AuthorScript to Microsoft in January 2002. Microsoft still hasn't embedded DVD authoring into its operating system, but that's likely the thinking behind that licensing agreement.
When it comes to the set-top market, though, questions remain as to whether or not consumers want even the most basic authoring capabilities. For DVD recorders to replace VHS recorders, consumers need to be convinced that the higher picture quality and non-linear chaptering will be worth the money and effort. And while DVDs certainly are attractive for people who want to, say, record the entire season of The Sopranos and save it for posterity (although more and more of those types of programs are becoming available on commercial DVDs, the time-lag to production can be unbearable for fanatics), it's unclear whether the format can win over the VHS user who just wants to be able to time-shift soap operas or football games.
Still, the ability to trim extraneous material—be it commercials, credits, or "coming next week" previews—from television programs is certain to have some appeal; Taylor sees AuthorScript CE finding a home in the family room not only with DVD recorders that replace VCRs, but also with Tivo-like PRVs, set-top cable receivers, and home entertainment network servers with integrated DVD recorders.
Taylor says that several set-top manufacturers have already signed on to license AuthorScript CE, but that those products won't ship until early 2003.