TiVo, Apple and Google’s TV War Begins

May 31, 2010

Given developments as of late, there appears to be three way war to gain control of your TV. The most viable players are Apple, Google and TiVo (see earlier prediction).  All have an opportunity to win the war. There are other potential competitors but they are really niche players for now: Moxi, Windows Media Center, Boxee, Roku and the Popcorn.
Let’s call this the third generation of set top boxes or components.  The first generation was really good at performing a single function such as TiVo’s ability to record TV or your DVD’s ability to (surprise!) play DVDs.  The second generation of video components added some form of Internet connectivity that allowed for the streaming or downloading of content from the Internet.  The Roku box specialized at just this.  Blu-ray players gained the ability to watch NetFlix on demand.  The third generation will allow for better personalization, ability to search and find shows across several types of mediums and provide a platform for applications to run on your TV (Facebook, ebay, Major League Baseball).  By providing a platform that is extendable, third generation boxes will tap into the power of the today’s powerful computing cloud.
The winner of this generation of boxes will let you let you be able to watch any show or movie you like on demand. It will not change the essential part of the TV experience, namely how easy it is. Or in less kind words, you can still be a couch potato. The economic model will provide a way for content providers to profit from their works and be affordable for consumers (folks are not going pay too much more than they shell out for their cable bill).  What are their strengths and weakness of the main players?

TiVo TCD746320 Premiere DVR (Black)TiVo: With recent launch of the TiVo Premier, TiVo laid the foundation for its next generation platform.  The pitch is that it’s one box (i.e. you don’t need a seperate cable box thanks to cable cards and is seamless).  TiVo is doing its best to integrate with cable and satellite while providing other content sources.  While the hardware is a big step up, the software was not 100% ready for prime time.  The other day, they also announced they would be embedding their software in consumer electronics devices such as TVs which opens up the possibility of having one interface in the home. 


  • You can buy it today and it works!
  • It’s one box that doesn’t need a seperate cable box, a seamless exerperience.
  • TiVo is focusing on being the supplier of cable boxs to cable providers.  RCN has already started to deploy in Washington.  This model is very viable for the consumer (no up front cost just a monthly fee) and gives access to on-demand movies.
  • Only box out there that can record over the air TV or cable as well as provide services such as NetFlix and Amazon
  • Software is starting to appear on embedded devices such as Insignia TVs (minus the DVR but powerful if it allows you to stream content to these devices)


  • Released before it was ready
  • Needs a better way to stream between boxes (too slow now)
  • No easy way to develop applications for it and extend its functionality
  • Few resources means they are focused on survivial
  • Monthly or Lifetime fee for standalone box 
Apple TV with 160GB Hard Drive - MB189LL/AApple:  The current AppleTV is a basically a iTunes extender that you hook up to your TV.  Apple’s current box looks to bypass your local cable company entirely.  Recently, there have been a lot of rumors that Apple will release a new low cost cloud based box.  Apparently we will not see anything at the upcoming Apple Developers’ Conference.  Assuming the box appears:


  • Apple is the best when it comes to execution of concepts and has lots of resources
  • The iTunes store
  • Potential extension of their current apps store to the TV
  • AppleTV’s great interface


  • No offical announcement yet
  • Current AppleTv is a closed platform.  They have shown no interest in integrating with live TV or recording it since it potentially takes away money from the iTunes store.
  • Pay per show model
See the post below on the details of GoogleTV.  Google’s strategy is to attempt to work with and integrate with everybody and allow everyone to use their system. Keep in mind, it’s only just been announced so folks have not had any hands on experience with it yet.
  • Google has a massive amount of resoures
  • It’s an open platform where anyone can build applications or hardware or incoroporate it into their devices (similar to Andriod phones).
  • Promises to work across many different devices and mediums
  • There are no monthly fees.  It will probably rely on Google’s adverstising model for revenue


  • Has no way to record live TV itself
  • Relies on IR blasters to integreate with other devices such as your cable box or TiVo?
  • Search paradigm may not work when watching TV. Consumer still needs to be able to surf content. 

Who will win?  It’s too early to tell.  TiVo does seem to be ahead for the moment given they are the only one to market.  Given TiVo’s financial condition, they are primed to be bought out but folks have been speculating about that for years.  Apple and Google have the massive amount of resources to make this interesting and to create an awesome experience in your home theater and beyond.

Tags: Apple, Apple TV, Google, Google TV, TiVo

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