January 09, 2004

TiVo To Go and Free PVRs

tivo.jpgTiVo has just announced TiVo To Go, their plan to make the shows TiVo records viewable on computers. This is a bittersweet announcement for TiVo fans. Matt sounds excited, Cory sounds pissed.

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?

Posted by george at January 9, 2004 11:26 PM
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Nice overview! although I think a savvy person can build a pretty awesome MythTV box for much less. *shrug* I figured around 600 dollars all told for the one I have planned (including shipping) although I'm a very careful frugal shopper (ok I'm cheap as hell)

while I'm here... cheap plug =P I just started a community dedicated to this idea: Build Your Own PVR
(ironically I own a tivo)

rampy

Posted by: rampy at January 12, 2004 12:20 PM

what is really needed is a project to convert existing Tivos into myth-like PVRs. The hardware is already out there, it is a standard platform (OK, maybe 4 different configurations), and lots of people would love to stop paying the $13 a month.

BTW, I feel the $13 a month is entirely reasonable for what Tivo is, but free is nice too. :)

Posted by: fuji at February 4, 2004 03:28 PM

Damn, that's an awesome idea. Not that I mind the $13/mo fee either, but I would love to be able to do the things TiVo can't do, like export and import mpeg files, run emulators, get news & weather, etc.

Posted by: George at February 4, 2004 03:34 PM

Sorry, comments are closed.