It skips commercials because it knows when it already recorded them. When you see commercials repeated, especially more than once each commercial break; then, you wondered would what it take to smarten that video recorder, so its skips them. If the same segment of the audio-video signal matches anything already recorded; then, you know it could trigger some action. Even if you watch while it records, it could trigger the mute for already seen commercial segments.
I compared the DVR to the iMailBox and wondered what is different between these two. The DVR makers turned the DVR into an app-server and entertainment console. They aimed to turn your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and etc, into your universal remote control. Instead of the form of game consoles, they aimed for the home appliance look and feel. The iMailBox ideal worked in by the opposite direction, like Microsoft versus Apple.
Between Big Carrier's wireless set-top box and other home appliances, I wondered how many people want the all-in-one unit instead of different boxes for each venue. There probably is some magical order you plug each one into each other and finally into your screen and speakers.
Even if the DVR only stores two hours worth of audio-video, and triggers some action on known commercials within that duration, that makes it smarter than Big Carriers record-only mode.
I think of the DVR, even as smart as above, as your appliance with private-mode only, and I think of the iMailBox as the utility within public access. We called them headless appliance because they are not like the PC where the PC needed peripherals, monitor, keyboard, etc, plugged-in, the headless appliance does not.
I noticed one News channel used the picture-in-picture mode for their commercials. That works for some commercials, as others would talk right over the news anchors. They seemed to have already adjusted to these smarter, always-on, appliances.
Maybe the headless appliance can be at least smart enough to get an update from the electric grid such that it knows when its power is currently fed in from the green-energy range or not.