Seagate has announced new drives and a new ATA format specifically for video streaming in PVRs. The new standard is optimized for the storage and type of data access required of video streams and should result in smoother playback.
Eight manufacturers stepped up to the plate to support it in their devices, and those include companies that have manufactured TiVo devices in the past, though no specific mention of TiVo is made. Echostar is also one of the companies looking to move to the new drives and ATA7 standard so maybe this could be another plus for the Dish network PVRs over DirecTV's offerings.
Hot on the heels of Samsung's news of a large DirecTiVo, Echostar has announced their own 120Gb DVR offering. News.com claims that EchoStar will be giving them away for free, to undercut DirecTV's sales potential.
I'll lay off the Home Media Option posts for a while, but I had to mention this: possibly the geekiest marriage proposal ever was included in the last TiVo newsletter:
"This is not a joke," subscriber Ted Linhart’s e-mail began. "I proposed to my girlfriend yesterday via my TiVo DVR." Say what, huh? Using the Digital Photo feature included with Home Media Option premium package, Ted streamed a picture of himself holding a sign that read "Will You Marry Me?" to his living room DVR so that his gal Rachel would see the on-screen proposal as she walked through the door on August 5th. Ted happily reports the question garnered an enthusiastic "yes!" (See photo.)
Nothing says romance like bringing a television into your deepest and most personal life moments.
A post on the TiVo Community Forum points out that the music and photo sharing in TiVo isn't limited to your home's local network. Remote IPs work the same as local ones, according to this account:
I have family, friends and co-workers who also have a Series 2 Tivo, with HMO. We log unto each others IP address and stream each others MP3s, and pictures. Every once in a while I'll get a phone call from one of them saying something to the effect of: "Hey Erick! Have you heard the new <enter band name here>?" I'll in turn say "No". Friend: "Log unto my IP with your TiVo and check it out.". And so I'll do that. Same things with pictures. They'll tell me about a cool concert they went to that I missed, but they are able to share the pictures, all of this, without having to see each other. Just gotta log unto their IP address.
I'm surprised music and photo sharing sites haven't popped up like they have with iTunes, where people could post their IP and a description of their collection for other TiVo HMO owners to browse.
Samsung has announced a new 100 hour DirecTiVo reciever with dual tuners. About the only innovation is the shipping hard drive size, being the largest offered directly from a manufacturer, and much larger than the standard DireTiVo 35 hour size on competing units.
The announcement features speculation about future HDTV capable versions and they even hint at throwing a home networking ethernet router/firewall into it, and of course a Samsung spokesperson dodges the obvious question of why it doesn't come with a DVD recorder by saying:
With a 100 hour capacity disk do you really need an external recording device...There is enough room on the hard drive to store some programs.
Sure, some programs could fit on a 100 hour device, but they won't last forever and you can't archive them outside of the box, so of course people really do need an external recording device. [announcement link via Gizmodo]
TV Week's article "TiVo's Been Outflanked" echos a lot of the themes I covered in my post about TiVo's Apple problem, and even wraps up by comparing TiVo's future to Apple. Though TiVo's demise is far from imminent, thanks in large part of competing cable and satellite companies brewing up their own DVRs, TiVo's future subscriber numbers don't look as rosy as they used to.
Although I had good luck with my linksys wireless adapter and my TiVo, This review describes the hell one owner went through trying to find other supporting wireless products (apparently the Netgear MA101 did the trick). [via gizmodo]
A new TiVo article at Fool.com [via library planet] serves as a nice optimistic counter-point to my warnings below. Fool.com columnist Rick Munarriz is convinced once TiVo surpasses the million subscriber mark, substantial growth and profitability will be soon to follow for TiVo.
I hope he's right, and although TiVo posted losses today, their rise in subscribers produced a stock jump.
Apple created the first personal computer real people could use, and a few years later they followed it up with the first computer with an operating system made for humans. But over the years other companies offered products that were "good enough" and "not the best, but cheap!" and the IBM PC clones totally dominated the space. Apple has always stuck to being a hardware and software company, so they could never really meet the prices that a competitive PC hardware market created. While they did allow clones to spring up for a short time, they quickly put the kibash on the companies that undercut their own sales.
Apple still does their own hardware (though many components are cheap off-the-shelf PC parts) and their own software, but they are definitely the Betamax of the computer world. While they arguably offer a better interface and are easier to use, they hover around
5-10% 3% (thanks gen) of the marketshare while most consumers prefer the VHS of the computer world: the $400 plain boxes running windows. Even the places you buy computers reflect this. Apple has a line of bright, beautiful stores that you can spend thousands of dollars in, while you can walk into any Wal-Mart, muscle past the screaming kids and throw a nameless PC into your cart that'll set you back a few hundred bucks.
Like Apple, TiVo pioneered the market. TiVo has been around since 1998, and their first systems stored just a few hours and were quite expensive, but their software was revolutionary. Being somewhat of an interface designer myself, I was in immediate awe of the simplicity and functionality available in my first TiVo system. While the prices have fallen somewhat, the market sector is still a little stagnant, with TiVo just barely in the red, and a whole host of new competitors arising. Cable companies, startups, and even open-source projects have taken dead aim on TiVo's market and will make the space quite competitive very soon.
The consensus of everyone I talk to that uses these alternate DVR devices is the same: they rave about the features and/or the price, but lamment the lack of a simple to use and stable operating system that TiVo offers. But as prices fall and companies like Time Warner start offering DVRs for only a couple extra bucks a month, you have to wonder what combination of low price and "good enough" features it will take to gain lots of new customers (customers that TiVo will lose to the cheaper offerings).
As the competitors circle the market like vultures, I wonder if TiVo will resign itself as the Apple Computer of DVRs, where its snooty users will put stickers on their cars, make up 5 or 10% of the DVR space, and tell you all about how refined their TiVo operating system is. Or, will TiVo become the Microsoft of DVRs, acting more as a software and service company that licenses their OS to anyone that wants to throw together some basic parts?
Word on the street has always been that TiVo loses money on every unit they sell for $249-349 — that the hardware costs them more than the price, and their real business model is the reoccuring monthly service fee. It seems to me that due to ever-falling prices for basic commodity computer hardware, the prices of TiVo boxes must fall, or TiVo should send in the clones. Anyone can throw a hard drive, motherboard, and cheap processor into some plastic, but it takes real work to produce an operating system that works wonderfully and features an interface both geeks and grandmas can like.
Seeing the first of new TiVo-licensed products and reduced cost through TiVo Basic is a good sign, and they've even hinting at built-in DVD writers — something that would probably take TiVo another year to release in-house on their own boxes. I'm hopeful TiVo learns the lessons of the PC world and considers going the software, service, and licensing route. I'd hate to see them flounder in a tiny corner of the market they helped create.