January 09, 2004
TiVo To Go and Free PVRs
Very briefly, if you've been living under a cave or in a rock somewhere, let me state my feelings on TiVo: it is the second greatest invention of my lifetime. I would give up cable TV before TiVo. You can have my TiVo when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
The deal is that you can watch your shows on your computer if you have their special media software and a cryptographic key that I suspect is tied to your TiVo account. My initial reaction is the nagging suspicion that their software won't run under OS X, which means that this would be all academic anyway.
Why are they doing this? Well they are getting competition. They've had competition before, but not like this. Comcast is rolling out a DVR, which people won't need to pay the initial $200 - $300 hardware purchase. On the other front, they're aware of Freevo and MythTV, free software that allows people to create their own DVRs. Before the end of 2004 I predict that someone will be selling a "beige box" DVR with one of these free software packages pre-installed. The cable companies are beating them on price and the free DVRs are beating them on features.
What can you do with the free DVRs that you can't with TiVo? You can play video files that you've downloaded over the Internet; play emulated video games; get weather information; (the most important tenet of free software) extend it yourself and our original subject: exporting shows. The downside is that you don't benefit from mass production or subscription subsidies that lower TiVo’s cost (you can spend around $1,200 building a MythTV box)and they’re not exactly user friendly.
So why is TiVo trying to piss Cory off? Like everything with TiVo it’s a compromise between what users want (unlimited access to the shows they recorded) and what the TV companies want (TiVo to go to hell). Why walk the line? ReplayTV tried to appease the consumers at the expense of the industry and they went tits up. Meanwhile, TiVo has its investors like NBC to worry about, so the last thing it would do is give their customers what they want. Do you really think that a company would pick its (notoriously loyal) customers over its investors?
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