TiVo gets ready for “IT”

February 15, 2010

Remember a few years ago there was all of this hype around a product to be released simply known as “IT”.  IT turned out to be the Segway scooter. Rumor was IT would change the architecture of cities as well as the way we lived. Well, that never happened!

Fast forward to the present. TiVo sent out the following invitation for a March 2nd announcement in New York City at Rockerfeller Center.

It appears the event will feature the newest TiVo box, the Series 4. For TiVo to stay relevant, it needs to really hit it out of the park given the event’s hype.

What does TiVo specifically need to do? Let’s first review how we got here and the competition. In my opinion, TiVo is still the best digital video recorder (DVR or PVR) on the market. When it was released, it was basically a super-charged VCR.  It didn’t need tapes and you didn’t need to set the timer and make sure the TV was on channel 3 (remember when you would forget to do that!). TiVo set us free to watch TV when we wanted to, not when the network forced us to. While you can get a DVR from the cable company, it does not have TiVo’s easy to use interface. Typically, the cable company’s pay as you go DVR does not let you download content to your IPod or let you upload content. In addition, TiVo was one of the first to offer services such as Netflix streaming. The cable companies don’t offer features like this since it competes with their on-demand offerings. Tivo has come out with three generations of boxes. The Series 3, the last  one released, added HD recording of two shows simultaneously.  I was an earlier adopter of the TiVo Series 3. The picture and sound quality of this TiVo is outstanding.  This TiVo was later replaced by the TiVo XL which was also THX certified.

TiVo’s other competition comes from products such as AppleTV, Roku and Boxee. All of these products excel at streaming media but lack the ability to record live TV. The Roku box can be purchased for just $99 and does not require any monthly fee.  It gives you access to many of the on-line streaming video and audio services such as Netflix, Pandora and Amazon’s video on demand. AppleTV takes more of a closed approach only working with the iTunes service for music and video (there are ways around this but it requires some hacking). If you buy TV shows and music exclusively from iTunes, it’s a great solution to enjoy the content on your TV. The Boxee box, originally a software-only solution that ran on Macs and PCs, has now announced a stand-alone box from D-Link. This solution lets you easily stream from your home PC, watch Hulu (which hulu is attempting to stop) and adds a social networking dimension to your media watching. There are also free solutions out there such as MythTV which I run at home but it requires a lot of patience.

Today’s TIVO is a bit aged in 2010. Its menus are slow and not made for HD displays. To work with cable, the cable guy has to show up to install the cablecards.  Outside of the NetFlix player, the other add-ons such as the YouTube one are clunky to use. The speculation on Engadget is that there will be new hardware introduced with a fast, made for HD user interface as well as lots of software goodies such as Facebook and the ability to remotely watch shows (like the slingbox).

My own wish list includes:

  • The ability to buy a subscription that automatically downloads your favorite shows removing your need for a cable
  • A low cost Tivo junior.  This junior box would simply stream content to another room over wireless without having to pay for another subscription.
  • Full 1080p resolution
  • Built in wireless-n networking
  • A QWERTY remote that is just as ergonomically pleasing as the ‘peanut’ remote
  • No more need to have someone come out to install cable cards
  • Easy access to iTunes music including the copy protected songs
  • Easily stream video from other sources in the home
  • An App Store similar to the iphone’s
What’s on your list?  Do you prefer another solution over TiVo?

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