Weighing TiVo’s fortunes

Darknet: Weighing TiVo’s fortunes JD Lasica points us to a few more interesting posts on TiVo.

Ed Felton seems to believe that TiVo hasn’t improved due to a too familiar relationship with Hollywood, “TiVo made a decision, early on, to cozy up to the TV networks, to stay within their comfort zone. But the networks’ comfort zone is awfully confining. ReplayTV took a different path, seizing the technological lead with new features that angered the networks; and the networks brought a lawsuit that ReplayTV couldn’t afford to defend. At the time, TiVo execs probably chuckled and congratulated themselves for their caution.

Now the time has come for TiVo to pay for its timidity. Its technology is no longer distinctive, and the rising tide of DRM threatens to cut TiVo’s products out of the TV delivery pipeline. (Remember, DRM is just another name for deliberate incompatibility.) It’s not clear what the company will have to offer future customers.”

Felton seems to feel specifically that, combined with the inability to push the envelope, Mike Ramsay has been another problem as was evidenced by the recent reporting on his inability to get a deal done with the big cable companies.

Now my understanding of the problem with the deal with the big cable companies was that it was almost imminent but went south for Ramsay at the last minute and that it was rumored to have simply come down to money. Slashdot picks up that thread here.. But boy I bet they wish that they had that cable deal now. Even if they had to give it away to cable — imagine all of the additional viewers TiVo could have. These additional viewers could be monetized through advertising adn other opportunities on the TiVo platform with what would have been a tiny incremental cost to TiVo.

Be that as it may or may not have been, Lasica also points us to some poignent remarks from the New York Time’s David Pogue. While everyone has been clamoring over the fact that TiVo’s fate might be sealed as no one would pay for a DVR when the cable companies are giving them away for free on a subscription based model, Pogue points out some pretty nice features that you find on a TiVo that you won’t necessarily find on the cable freebie box.

Specifically Pogue points out:

“* Retroactive recording. You come home, flip on the TV, and discover that you’re 35 minutes into what looks like a great show. If you have TiVo, you can either rewind into the past (to view what you missed while the TV was off) or even record it, thanks to the TiVo buffer that always stores the most recent 45 minutes of the current channel.

* Wish list. On a TiVo, you can type something—an actor, movie title, anything—that you’re interested in, even if it’s not anywhere in the TV guide. If and when it’s ever broadcast, on any channel at any time, the TiVo will record it for you. …

* Built-in reaction time. When you’re fast-forwarding through a show [and] you hit Play, it doesn’t begin playing from that point; it begins playing a few seconds before that, with uncanny “it knew what I wanted” accuracy.

* 30-second skip. It’s not a documented trick, but it’s nonetheless a juicy and delicious one. Press the following buttons on the remote while a show is playing back: Select, Play, Select, 3, 0, Select. Now your Advance button is a 30-second skip button. Press the same sequence again to turn off this feature. (You have to re-do this after a power failure.) It’s a much quicker, more precise way to skip ads.

* Season pass. On many DVR’s, you can ask to have a certain show recorded every week automatically—“Desperate Housewives” or whatever. But on a TiVo, you get some important options with that. For example, you can tell the TiVo to record only first-run episodes and not repeats. …”

My own level of distaste with the cable offerings right now comes down to one simple thing. Storage. My understanding is that they can only get about 15 hours of high def programming. I can get about 35 on my HDTV DirecTV TiVo and that is definitely worth the extra cost for me (but then again I’m a gadget freak who probably spends too much money on this kind of technology as it is.).

What the cable companies need to do if they want to address the high end is to either offer to sell boxes (or increased subscription fees) for boxes with larger drives in them capable of HDTV recording or to allow people to connect their own external hard drive up to the unit to use this as overflow storage. Not sure how likely the second scenario is as it might give people a way to get the content off of the machine.

Although my Media Center PC doesn’t record cable and satellite high def, it is nice that I can always add recording time simply by plugging in an external USB hard drive at any time.

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