RVU alliance topology
One of our dreams is to have a true whole home DVR that allows us to watch any show we want, on any TV we want; but so far the perfect solution has eluded us. TiVo was really the first to try with its Multi-Room Viewing, but missed the mark by not giving us a single Now Playing list for the whole house or even any automatic conflict resolution between units. The FiOS HD DVR was the next disappointment because it limits us to two tuners and 160GB for the whole house -- seriously is that enough for anyone? Currently Windows Media Center offers the best solution, but it's expensive after you pay $300 a pop for a CableCARD tuner, not to mention it requires more maintenance because it is based on a PC. Needless to say we continue to look for the perfect solution, and we think that the RVU (R-vue) alliance might be just what we ordered. In addition to DirecTV, Cisco and Samsung, the chip maker Broadcom is also one of the founding members of the alliance, but it is their goals that get us excited. So excited, that we'd actually be shocked if they were actually achieved, but you'll have to click through to learn why.
Here's how it would work
The concept is that you'd get a RVU server from your content provider (like DirecTV but it could also be cable or anyone else) and plug it into your home network. Then you'd buy HDTVs from the likes of Samsung with a RVU client built in, or you could even plug the RVU server directly into the TV. Then you can go to any TV in your house that is also an RVU client and access the exact same experience. This experience includes the ability to watch or record the same shows that you can from any other TV. Now the key part that get our minds going is the fact that Samsung obviously wants to sell TVs with this built in, otherwise why join the alliance? And then there is Cisco and DirecTV, both companies that make DVRs. So obviously they have interest in creating an RVU server. So as you can see this concept holds some real of potential.

RVU clients

What we don't know
Of course the website is short on details, which leads us to believe the details haven't been finalized yet. First up on our list of q's is how scalable is it? In other words, how many tuners can we have in the house, how much disc space is supported, and how many clients can there be? But we also wonder if you can have multiple servers from different providers on the same network? Then there is the biggest question of all, which is how well will this actually work -- assuming it even makes it to market. The last question isn't a cocern if you have DirecTV, but if you have cable, we wonder if your provider would even offer such a box, assuming Cisco actually makes a server? Of course not everyone wants to buy a Samsung TV, so we wonder how likely it is that other manufactures would join in on the party? Or what about other devices? The press release mentions other digital media adapters and set-top-boxes, so who knows how widespread the support for this could be.

Built on the shoulders of DLNA an UPnP
One of the most promising aspects of the RVU alliance is the fact that it is built on top of DLNA and UPnP. These two technologies are really everywhere, from Windows 7 to the Playstation 3. In fact we'd be willing to bet that DLNA is the most widespread media alliance ever assembled. A quick look at the roster on the DLNA site shows how well adopted it is. Of course neither DLNA, nor UPnP have the features required to deliver the type of experience that the RVU alliance is promising, which is where the new alliance comes in. To make up the difference, the RVU is offering the RUI -- you saw that one coming right -- which is described as a pixel accurate remote user interface technology. Basically the server would deliver the user interface alongside the video and audio to the client, which means all the heavy lifting is done on the server rather than the client. This is supposed to make the client less expensive and easier to implement, but it also means not just any DLNA client will work.


Okay, sounds great, but when?
According to our old friend Rômulo Pontual, DIRECTV's chief technology officer, "We are committed to the RVU technology and are planning to deploy it in media servers and clients beginning early in 2010." That sounds great and all, but DirecTV doesn't exactly have the best track record of delivering new technologies on time. Of course just because DirecTV has a server and clients out next year, doesn't mean Samsung or any other TV will, but at least it is a start.

It sounds great on paper, but we want to check it out first hand
If there is one thing we've learned following the HD industry, it is that plenty of great ideas go wrong when implemented. We all know too well that you can't buy electronics based on the spec sheet alone, so as great as this sounds, we won't be ditching our Windows Media Center setup just yet. One thing is for sure though, the RVU alliance most certainly has our attention, we just hope that they can deliver.

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