Paul Boutin has a great article at Slate today answering a popular question around here: "Will the Broadcast Flag Break Your TiVo? - The FCC ruling explained."
Paul does what he does best in his articles, cut to the chase and get a real-world analysis of something most armchair critics (myself included) conclude must be doom and gloom. The outlook doesn't look as bleak as you might have heard (I'm still not happy to see it), but there will be some crippled functionality and buying HDTV gear pre-July 2005 might prove to be a great investment eventually. Boutin rightfully observes what everyone in the tech industry has been saying, that basically this won't curb piracy, and at best might only add a step or two to those truly wanting to pirate shows and movies.
This interesting syndicated article on Forbes "Tivo at crossroads, needs cable partner-analysts" comes right before TiVo's third quarter earnings report, which is set to be released tomorrow. My favorite quote from the article:
The danger, Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff says, is that Tivo could end up like Apple Computer Inc. -- a highly profitable company with a fervent crop of users but whose market share lags far behind others in its market.
It's exactly the same point I outlined in August of this year: TiVo's Apple Problem. The problem for TiVo is that they probably do (and should) ask for a pretty stiff licensing fee in exchange for their software and brand, while cable companies would rather cut costs and write their own DVR software or purchase off-the-shelf generic units.
I recently got a new series 2 DirecTiVo unit that I've upgraded (full tutorial and review later), and that means I no longer need my standalone TiVo that I used here to cover various upgrades and feature reviews over the past few months. I've put it up for sale at eBay and added a note to the index page that will be up for the next week. If you're looking for a new TiVo and wary of doing your own upgrades, consider bidding on this machine as it runs perfectly and is ready to go, right out of the box.
Earlier this year, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, TiVo was showing off a prototype of the HDTV-capable TiVo. Here's a shot of a standalone HDTV TiVo. Here's a photo of the front of a DirecTV/HDTV/TiVo device, and here's a photo of the rear hookups for the same unit, though there are rumors the production units will have DVI connectors as well.
Word on the street is that they are going to go on sale first quarter of 2004 (March-April it looks like), at a cost of about $700-800 for the receiver.
The Pinnacle ShowCenter is a new entry into the network media devices arena. It looks like a bit of a hybrid system, with a $299 silver box that goes into your home theater setup, acting as a wired/wireless gateway point to your PC's library.
It does music, movies, and images with the added twist of including music and movie ripping into the package. There aren't any thorny piracy questions with this device, as they encourage you to encode your CD and DVD collection for playback from your computer. It's nice to see fair uses of copyright figure largely into a new device, as this is essentially a $300 super CD and DVD changer than can hold as many albums and movies as you have hard drive space for.
MobiTV is a new startup in the Bay Area that is partnering with SprintPCS to offer live television to owners of Sprint phones. They are aiming for commuters stuck on trains or in traffic and it definitely sounds like a cool feature that doesn't require one of those Japanese personal video displays or some future video-capable iPod.
After seeing a demo of it, Russell Beattie is convinced mobile TiVo should be the next obvious feature for MobiTV and that it's not a question of if, but when the technology will be available. By the way, SnapStream is the only PVR technology I know of that automatically creates PDA-friendly condensed versions of recorded shows. If you had an iPaq and a SnapStream library, you could script an automatic download to your docked device every morning. I'm sure some of the phones running the microsoft operating systems could also be tweaked to do the same. [thanks Andy]
Everyone that owns a series 2 regular TiVo raves about the Home Media Option, and every series 2 DirecTiVo owner curses under their breath while DirecTV sits on their hands and doesn't release an update or support for HMO in their new units (a lot of owners want group sorting and usb-to-ethernet support as well in the new OS).
There are rumors that eventually DirecTV will add HMO capability and a few enterprising hackers have figure out ways of lighting up a series 2 DirecTiVo's USB ports, but someone simply tried restoring an existing standalone TiVo with HMO image to a new DirecTiVo and claims that 4.0 features work flawlessly (they can't figure out how to "purchase" the HMO though). While many were skeptical, but folks on the TiVo Community boards have also reported that it worked (thread since deleted).
Hopefully DirecTV will come to their senses soon and turn on the $99 feature so many people are clammoring for and light up those USB ports that have gone silent for the past year or so.
Reuters (via Forbes) has a piece on how TiVo and DVR technologies have changed the way we watch TV. If you are a regular reader of this weblog, this is not news to you. The main themes that I took away from the article were that,
1) many Tivo users feel the need for much more HDD space than is currently available
2) TiVo and related DVR technologies often enable people to watch more TV than they currently do
In the long run, the ability for TV viewers to control their viewing experience should enable marketers and advertisers to better target their audiences in a self-selective manner, whether it be through product placement or some new form of advertising. The transition period may be rough, with networks crying foul, and advertisers whining for olden days, but if the future means more pertinent-to-me, relevant-to-me, advertising, I look forward to that more than I do to the TV of today.
The folks at Weaknees have created a great little web application to help with TiVo upgrades.
I myself have found that in the past the comprehensive how-tos require you to wade through many paths and sidenotes that don't usually apply to your specific situation, since they are written to handle all of them. This app succeeds by only showing you what you need to know for your particular brand of TiVo and your type of upgrade.
I just took delivery of a new DirecTiVo box and I have my upgrade drive ready, so I'll be taking this site's instructions for a spin in a few days.
Alan Taylor writes about this three year old daughter that happens to be 3 months older than their three year old TiVo, and how that has affected her view of what TV is. It's hard to imagine what it must be like to use a regular tv if all you've ever known is being able to watch, pause, and fast forward any show you like.