In the race to maintain market share, leaders in the TV industry are testing the technology, economic feasibility and consumer appeal of a number of new devices. The goal is to find that one gadget that might, just might, strike a chord with a wide enough audience that it will guide the industry forward. Greater flash mobility "We’re studying everything," said David Poltrack, chief research officer, CBS, during a panel discussion at the Future of Television conference last week. "We’re assessing everything as if it is going to work."

Poltrack went on to explain that CBS gathers data by serving focus groups a wide variety of technology and demonstrating the capabilities. Poltrack said these gadget studies have thus far yielded one definitive winner: a high-density flash drive manufactured by SanDisk. According to Poltrack, the drive soaks up the user’s downloaded content directly, is pulled out of the computer and then inserted straight into an HDTV set. Storage is maximized, and the content is mobile.

The conference auditorium became noticeably quiet for a moment. It was as if the entirely audience thought: "That’s brilliant. I want one. Other people will want one. How can we turn that into money?"

(Editor’s note: After checking with SanDisk, we determined that storage in the SanDisk flash is on the order of Gigabytes, not Terabyes, as was reported at the conference.) TiVo/set-top integration rolls out As for a gadget-to-watch that is currently on the market – Comcast‘s long anticipated integration of TiVo‘s DVR software inside its Motorola set-top boxes has finally come to fruition. After delays stretching back more than one year, Comcast has begun rolling out the devices in New England.

Tom Rogers, TiVo’s president and CEO, speaking at the Future of Television conference, explained that the physical process of integration was more complicated than initially expected.

"It was an enormous piece of rocket science to work with hardware, chips we don’t control," Rogers said.

Following the Comcast model, TiVo will now be integrated into boxes distributed by Cox Communications. Rogers also said there is potential in developing the broadband delivery of content to TiVos and that almost 1 million TiVo users have connected their DVRs to the Internet.

"That will be the catalyst for the on-demand world," Rogers said. He expressed his view that the cable industry "made a bad bet" with VOD. "We have 15,000 titles via Amazon, and they’re encoding thousands more each month. The video on demand infrastructure just can’t match that."

Whether it’s a new gadget the enables consumer ease of use or an upgrade by integration for an existing technology, the industry will remain on the lookout for the next … iPod? … no, that is a bad word in these parts … innovation. – Jennifer Rinaldi

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