Poor First Impressions for TiVoToGo

TiVotoGo cartoon ummm.. borrowed… courtesy of Blogography.com

Well the first impressions of TiVo to Go are starting to roll in and the first few that I’ve seen seem to be pretty negative.

First there is the post, “TiVo to Go, First Impressions” over at Obvious Diversion. Christian Gloddy points to the serious mistake for TiVo to build their wireless transfer around 802.11b technology rather than 802.11g and writes, “In short, TivoToGo isn’t really usable for me unless I seriously plan ahead or until Tivo adds support for 802.11g adapters. This is disappointing to say the least as I had been waiting for this feature for some time. I’m surprised Tivo didn’t make sure to support at least one faster adapter in anticipation of TiVoToGo.” According to Gloddy it would take about 5 hours to transfer a one hour photo via wi-fi with the new service.

Next we have Rob Pegoraro’s write up in the Washington Post, “Recordings Made Way Too Hard to Go.” Pegoraro writes, “TiVoToGo quickly runs aground because its developers made one small and one huge mistake. First, their failure to build in a fast, convenient way for TiVo boxes to connect directly to PCs forces a slow, sometimes glitchy transfer of movies over a home network. Second, their attempts to placate movie studios by imposing strict copy controls make this system complicated to set up and irritating to use.” Ouch!

Frank Bajak reviews TiVotoGo for AP and points out that it is pretty nice that TiVo to go is free and offers a more mixed write up with more positives thrown in. His consensus boils down to: “The good news: The service doesn’t add a penny to TiVo Inc.’s $13 monthly subscription charge. The bad news: It’s only about half of what I’d hoped for.”

Bajak also points out that Microsoft, through their Media Center Edition software already have a leg up on TiVo. “It’s worth noting that PCs running Microsoft Corp.’s ever-improving Windows Media Center operating system and Media Center Extender boxes already have a leg up on TiVo when it comes to video transfer and picture quality.”

This is one thing that I’ve heard very little on. Despite all of the TiVotoGo hype, I have actually been doing the exact same thing with Media Center since October 2002 without any kind of controls, passwords, DRM or other protection. It’s as simple as recording a show in MCE and then copying the file to my laptop via my network for viewing remotely.

Dave Simmer, over at Blogography is perhaps one of the harshest critics and actually compares the TiVotoGo service to the old antiquated VCR and points to four reasons why a VCR is better than TiVotoGo, ”

1. Some shows can be tagged as non-transferable, such as pay-per-view and some premium programming, meaning you can’t watch them on your computer at all (whereas a videotape can record anything).

2. All video requires a “media key” to be unencrypted. This is to prohibit sharing the content, and doing so may result in your account being revoked (whereas a videotape requires no such bullshit).

3. The video is not in a standard format and requires special software to operate… currently only available for Windows 2000 or Windows XP (whereas a videotape will work on any VCR without special conditions).

4. The TiVoToGo service will only work from specific players, meaning those of us with DirecTV boxes that have TiVo built-in or multiple tuners are shit-out-of-luck (whereas a VCR is a VCR is a VCR).”

I happen to especially agree with his point on number four. As the owner of two unsupported TiVotoGo units, an old Series One model and a current DirecTV HDTV model, I find it questionable that TiVo would choose to spend the last year working on something that works for less than half of their users at the expense of developing other things (like a dual tuner standalone TiVo for instance).

The cartoon above was lifted courtesy of Dave’s site at Blogoraphy.com.

Update: Gartenberg addresses the issue here.

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  1. David says:

    1. Of course it doesn’t work for Series 1. Those are end of lifed. There will be no more updates to it. do you expect updates to your old out of date computers too?

    2. It doesn’t work for DirectTivos not for technological reasons, but b/c DirectTV has choosen for it not to work. It, along with HMO, could work on DirectTV units, but they don’t want it too. Your issue is with them, and not Tivo.

    3. If it’s taking 5 hours to transfer a half our or even and hour show, something is wrong with your network. I’ve seen reports of people, over wifi b networks, transferring 1/2 hour programs in under a 1/2 hour, or at about real time if at best quality. Remember, these files are HUUUUGE.

    Although I do agree that not having an ethernet port is a mistake, and not having full g support is a mistake too. But it’s hard. Remember, when you buy an adapter in the store, it comes with a disc. You use that disc to load the driver on your computer. For tivo, it would have to download the drivers (for each and every single adapter) with is quite difficult.

  2. Thomas Hawk says:

    I understand the technical limitations and reasons why the product doesn’t support Series 1 units or DirecTV units, I just question the company’s decision to pin their future on something that isn’t available for over half of their customers.

    Personally, I think their time would have been better spent developing a stand alone dual tuner unit or a stand alone HDTV unit, both of which are promised future developments at this point.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The transfer time comment was insanely off-base. It takes about 1.25 hours to transfer files at highest quality using wireless B. Plus TiVo now runs a web server, and programs can be accessed from the net with transfer speeds of about 2 hours per 1 hour program at best quality.

    Does Dave travel with his VCR? I have never in my life been next to someone on a plane with a VCR and TV on his lap. Ive actually never seen anyone leave their house carrying a VCR.

    And Im surprised that it isnt more obvious to you Thomas why TiVo would develop something specifically targeted at its stand-alone customer base exclusively – because TiVo realizes that over the long term, the more customers it can port from DirecTV to stand-alone, the better.

    It should be interesting to see what happens to MSFT if they dont develop more stringent copy-protection mechanisms over the long term.

    However, not having a dual-tuner box in the market is an unforgiveable mistake that has cost TiVo dearly in the short-term.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I would like to add:

    B speeds aside, I do think its mindboggling that TiVo didnt include some type of G support with this roll-out.

    Its hard to understand why G support wasnt rolled out to support HMO and multi-room viewing…

  5. Dave2 says:

    No. I don’t travel with my VCR (I don’t even own one anymore), but that is exactly my point: I can’t travel with TiVoToGo either (as I am a Mac user with a dual-tuner DirecTV TiVo). So, on top of being no better than a videotape in functionality for me, it also has several ADDITIONAL disadvantages over 30-year-old VHS.

    And there’s the problem… I am in no way opposed to purchasing yet another new dual-tuner, DirecTV, TiVo Series 2 player (assuming they ever release one), but given that there’s no software for the Mac yet, and that they could start tagging all my favorite shows as “non-transferrable” at any point in the future, what’s the use? Let’s say I buy a TiVoToGo capable player and Mac software is released, but then ABC, NBC, and CBS refuse to grant TiVo transfer rights for any of their programs… what happens then? 80% of the shows I’d want to transfer would no longer be available, and I’d have spent the money for nothing.

    This is progress? All it’s done is forced people to come up with new ways of circumnavigating a system of roadblocks to getting the convenience we should be able to have in the first place.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been using Snapstream BTV for the past year with a Hauppauge PVR-250 tuner card and recently added a second tuner. This is working wonderfully for me so much so that I am on the verge of cancelling my Tivo account and selling my SA S2 unit. The reason I have not done this is that the Tivo is so damned easy to use, my wife loves it and she doesn’t like TV except for 1 – 2 – 3 shows a week. The Tivo software is wonderful and alot of the PVR software out there does not come close though BTV is getting there… My point being that yes Tivo is great stand alone device but there are others out there that are catching up, MCE and BTV to name just two. Silly Tivo…

  7. Anonymous says:

    Bajak said:
    “It’s worth noting that PCs running Microsoft Corp.’s ever-improving Windows Media Center operating system and Media Center Extender boxes already have a leg up on TiVo when it comes to video transfer and picture quality.”

    With the difference in price, a pc dvr BETTER have a leg up! It better have a HUGE leg up.

    How can I have any faith in a reviewer who can’t even get his network working correctly?

    Also, it’s going to take hours to render an mpeg file in any app that wants to re-encode the video, weather the file is from a tivo or a cable box or a simple capture card.

    There are apps out there that will create a dvd file set without re-encoding, some are even free- or donation-ware.

    Be very wary of the opinions of the ill-informed, no matter how pretty or important their blog page appears.

  8. Thomas Hawk says:

    It is quite simple and fast to transfer content from my MCE machine to my laptop. I simply network the two machines and copy the file from the hard drive on my MCE machine to the hard drive on my laptop and then watch it remotely through WMP10. It’s incredibly easy and involves no copy protection or DRM whatsoever.

    We will see how long Microsoft continues to get away with this but I hope it’s for a long long time.

  9. Anonymous says:

    There is a technical limitation to DirecTv Tivos being able to copy data from the hard drive. Now, I could be wrong but my understanding is that the DirecTivos actually record the data from the dish directly to the harddrive without any encryption/encoding/decoding. That is why you can record 2 shows at once with them with a single card. Those access cards are used actively to decode the video. When you are watching a show or playing a file, that stream from the HD is being processed with the card to give you an image. If DirecTv was to do anything other than that, it would require a software program to decode their programming and could be possibly used to create a computer with the ability to watch their programming without paying for it. aecastaneda -at- hotmail -dot- com