Ernest over at Corante has a great story on a new Maxtor DVR product: "Crippled External Hard Drive for DVRs." Turns out that Maxtor is producing a new external USB/firewire backup drive for DVR set-top boxes, but it won't be sold to customers but instead only to cable and satellite companies. Since you won't actually own the device, you won't have any rights to get at the data inside the drives, apart from your set-top box.
Sounds totally brain-dead and protectionist to me. Honest people that pay their cable bill are going to want a way to load the shows onto their laptops for travel or their PC for playback in other rooms and when they find out they can't, I'm sure there will be a PR disaster on the hands of any cable or satellite company that chooses to adopt these devices.
"TiVo Faces Off With Flattering Clones" is the tale of the classic battle of a company trying to maintain their branding and keep from becoming part of the lexicon. Xerox fought it tooth and nail (and lost miserably), Adobe is currently fighting the term "photoshopped" (and losing), I hear people call almost any personal mp3 player an iPod, and now it's TiVo's turn.
I had this happen to me last summer, when a Comcast cable installer came by and mentioned that they'd be offering TiVo in a few months. When I pressed him for more info, it turned out to be a generic DVR. It's not hard to hear people say they "Tivo'd that program" in interviews these days, though few of them actually own a TiVo instead of the DVRs many companies offer.
In the long run I don't think this will be bad for the company. They built a device that provided a fundamental shift in how we use a TV and they have attained the status of becoming a unique new word in our collective vocabulary as a result. I know that millions of people saying the word TiVo doesn't equate 1-to-1 with new customers and the company considers it brand confusion, but it certainly can't hurt if your brand and product recognition get to be so good that people use it as a term for the functionality. Everyone knows that to "TiVo" something you tape it on a hard drive based recorder. When they go into a shop looking to buy one, they'll only know one term to describe it, and that could equate to long term sales for the company, not confusion.
It's official, the HD TiVOs have finally begun shipping. They're going to be priced at around a thousand bucks for now, but expect a new customer special in the next few months that should make it cheaper (I'm going to guess $399 or $499 with a year contract).
The demand for these units is through the roof. I know at least three friends with existing pre-orders and I have no idea if the current shipments will meet even the pre-order demand. Yesterday I heard that BestBuy put their first shipment of 200 units up on their website and sold out of them within a few hours.
Early reviews are already being posted to the TiVo Community forums, and they're already uncovering a whole range of problems with signal conversion. I'm a technogeek and I love gadgets, but I gotta admit HDTV can be insanely complicated with the different formats and up-conversion on both a TV and a HDTivo.
DirecTV has promised me a review unit soon, though I don't have a HDTV monitor yet and am debating buying a 30" tube set while I wait a year or two for LCDs to come down in price (I'm also open to review any HDTV sets here, if any company would like to offer that for me).
We've been discussing this very topic for almost as long as this weblog has been in existence.
"The cable train has left without TiVo onboard, and I don't think they're coming back for TiVo," said Sean Badding, an analyst with The Carmel Group.Then later in the article...
TiVo's code also is missing from Panasonic's combination DVD Recorder-DVR and Mitsubishi's upcoming HDTV receiver with a 120-gigabyte DVR. Sharp is building DVR capabilities directly into some of its LCD TVs, again without TiVo.
TiVo, based in Alviso, Calif., has knocked on the cable industry's doors for years — and admittedly changed its take-my-TiVo approach to now a more flexible tactic of designing its software around the cable industry's needs.Too little, too late? And Marty, is your customer the TV viewer, or the cable companies?
"It's a kinder, gentler TiVo now," said TiVo president Marty Yudkovitz. "It's about building what your customer wants."
But why should cable companies pay more to get TiVo's technology and brand name when they already have apparently good enough DVR features from their entrenched partners?
It's nice to see the folks at TV blog Lost Remote are singing the gospel for Media Center PCs. If it wasn't so costly to get into a Windows Media Center PC (officially you are supposed to buy a new pre-outfitted PC with it) and if it had better integration with my satellite system, I'd likely be using this over TiVo, for many of the features mentioned by the folks at Lost Remote.
For TiVo owners who also have TiVoWeb installed, this unique app lets you control your TiVo from your Mac using an on-screen remote control. Unlike regular TiVoWeb, no browser is needed, so you can save screen real-estate and don't have to go hunting for the remote.(Scroll to the bottom.)
TelevisionWeek reports that a VP at Turner recently remarked how he wasn't afraid of changing business models due to widespread TiVo use. Apparently the impact to their bottom line has actually been positive in the wake of increased PVR use.
That's because TiVo has increased viewership of the Turner networks, he said. "Right now we don't have any big guns aimed at the TiVo world. We think it's been slightly positive because it increases viewership," he said. Mr. Chandler added that Turner expects the coming cable upfront to be positive for Turner.
Pretty surprising news coming from the company that once thought fast-fowarding a commercial or going to the bathroom during breaks was akin to stealing from them.
Wired News has a great story today on the use of DVR video tools by the San Jose Sharks pro hockey team. Using a combination of tablet PCs and a video server, a coach can call up video immediately recorded during a game, to review plays. The article is light on technical details but they point out similar products that sports-themed technology companies produce. It seems like this would be pretty easy to setup with a Windows Media Center server connected to a game feed, a wireless network at the game, and a laptop in the coach's hands.
For the past few years DirecTV has employed a variety of encryption techniques to keep people from getting free service. Every level of protection DirecTV has used has been eventually hacked, but this week underground DirecTV hackers learned that their card hacks had died and the early prospects of hacking the newest technology isn't looking good. Their communities are currently freaking out (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16) but promising fixes someday. Time will tell if the underground satellite hacking community figures out a way to deconstruct it, I suspect someone, somewhere will figure out a way to break the security.
Personally, when I first got my DirecTiVo a couple years back I took a look at the satellite hacking underground to see what it was like. From what I saw, these guys put so much time and effort into it that it seemed pointless. I'm a big fan of opportunity cost, I'd rather just pay DirecTV $40 a month than tweak code for hours every night that also requires hundreds of dollars worth of shady electronics equipment.
Reconditioned TiVos are $99 now, and they've also got a $129 special on a new 40hr model that they shared in the last promotional email I got from them.
At this rate, they'll eventually be free, following a cell-phone model where the monthly fee makes them cash over the years.