So by now you've all probably heard the news: Cable TV has come up with its "next big thing." Yes, cable television, that bastion of customer-centricity, has conceived a new solution to make our lives better -- and oh, by the way, save themselves a bundle in the process. The concept: DVR-less DVRs.

On Monday, Cablevision (NYSE:CVC) was the first telecommonopolist to float the idea of selling customers a digital video recorder (DVR) service that would store recorded shows back at the home office, instead of in a hard drive atop users' TV sets. That way, customers wouldn't have an actual DVR box cluttering up their homes. And they wouldn't have to pay the $9.99 monthly fee for that box, either. Right?

. Right?

Of course not, ladies and gentleFools! Although it's true that Cablevision "expects cost-savings to be passed on to customers," notice the conspicuous absence of the definite article from that statement. Although it's possible that some savings will trickle down to customers, I suspect that Cablevision, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (which echoed the idea approvingly just yesterday), and their brother cable/phone/Internet/ wireless providers will pocket the bulk of the savings from this plan. And with DVRs costing them a minimum of $100 a pop to purchase and install in your home, the savings could be substantial. Cablevision's 2.1 million customers, for example, have dreams of $210 million in savings dancing in cable execs' heads.

But will consumers bite?
That's the real question, isn't it? Judging from my experience with the DVR-like "On Demand" service provided by Cox Communications, I have my doubts about whether customers will want to hand over their cable boxes. While the service works more or less as promised, allowing a user to view programs at will, and to pause, fast forward and rewind as well, it's not without its quirks. Chief among these is the time lag between pressing a button and seeing the resulting action. Simply put, routing commands to the home office and back makes the system work more slowly than customers with actual DVR boxes may be accustomed to.

But what if they can make it work?
Yet another good question. If DVR boxes go the way of the Betamax, does this mean investors should start selling out of their positions in Motorola (NYSE:MOT), Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), and NDS (NASDAQ:NNDS) now?

I don't think so. Even if physical DVR boxes do fall out of fashion, the software that runs the DVR function will not. These companies make tons of tangible cash off the intangible software installed on the cable boxes they sell. Boxes or no boxes, that's not going to change.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above.

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