Dave Zatz got his hands on an early release of the upcoming TiVo Stream, a small $130 box you attach to your TiVo Premiere that lets you stream recordings to iOS devices and also gives you the ability to download shows to those devices.
Ever since I installed the TiVo iPhone and iPad clients, I've long wanted a way to stream the shows to my iPad in the house. At one time I had a Slingbox especially for this purpose but it was finicky and a pain to maintain and I eventually gave up on it. Personally, watching a dramatic show on an iPad with headphones is a really great way to get fully engrossed in a story and I'm really looking forward to this product.
Yesterday Dave also shared a sneaky way to pre-order one by phone.
Looks like the previously announced official TiVo unit for DirecTV that launched in December is now nationwide in the US. I live outside of their launch cities but noticed I can now sign up for new service and receive a free TiVo unit for it.
(I just may sign up and have DirecTV alongside my ailing fiber service from Frontier Communications, who has almost completely phased out TV service)
After hinting at rekindling the DirecTV-TiVo relationship for the last 5+ years, there is finally a new DirecTiVo out. It is only available in large cities at the moment (Chicago, Denver, LA, NYC, Philly, Phoenix, Sacramento, SF, Seattle, DC) but it's definitely good news to anyone that has ever used the older models in the early 2000s. I myself thoroughly enjoyed the DirecTiVo I had from 2002-2005, and I only gave it up when there wasn't a viable HD option for DirecTV.
There isn't a ton of specs available yet, but if this was available where I live, I would seriously consider moving to it, especially as my own fiber optic cable provider has strongly hinted that they are canceling TV service in the next year or so. Here's hoping they spread it to more markets soon.
A couple weeks ago, TiVo announced the newest high-end product in their line, the TiVo Premiere Elite. It's a whopping four tuners combined with a 2Tb hard drive, giving you the ability to record four shows at once (instead of two like the TiVo Premiere) and ups the storage from 1Tb to 2Tb. The biggest change otherwise is that OTA (Over The Air) recording is not available in this device, making it digital-cable only.
I don't live in an area with any OTA HD channels, so I never used that capability. I suspect TiVo's own research showed much of their customer base either didn't know or didn't care about OTA recording and they decided to simplify their latest device to keep costs down. List price is $499 and lifetime service was a whopping $500 extra (monthly service is up to $20/month, so their lifetime pricing is still holding at about 2 years of monthly service).
If you're upgrading from the previous TiVo Premiere, it featured the use of a CableCARD mcard, or multi-stream card. My Frontier/Verizon TV tech claimed I could just remove the card from one device and slide it into the other without problem, but we found only the free major network channels worked. None of the cable channels worked higher in the line-up. After a few minutes of me insisting that he needed to call home base and re-authorize the card, he eventually did and they re-authorized it and all my channels worked.
Moving to a new TiVo allowed me to use a pretty great feature for the first time, the ability to transfer Season Passes on TiVo.com between the two boxes on my account:
It only took a few minutes after guided setup for my new TiVo to appear in my account, and with a couple clicks, my new TiVo box resumed recording everything I had set up on the old box (though the passes were out of order, dang).
I'll report more on the new TiVo after I get a chance to use it over the next few months but so far the out-of-the-box experience has been pretty good. TiVo is really smoothing out the setup process, but unfortunately, having to schedule a cable company technician visit just to call a number and authorize a cable card is the biggest stumbling block and unfortunately, one TiVo has no control over.
Justin Mecham has a fantastic wishlist for Series 4 TiVo features he'd like to see. Most of them are season pass related and I have to say I agree with them all 100%. Some of them are a bit complex, but I could picture the menu options in most cases (like setting defaults for season pass options).
For myself, in addition to everything Justin mentioned (especially Hulu integration), I'd like to see the two-way CableCARD technologies implemented so that video on demand and pay-per-view content directly from cable companies could be accessed.
I'd also like to see other ways to be notified by my TiVo, perhaps by RSS, when an important event is coming up. I keep a bunch of wishlists around that I don't set to automatically record, but I often forget to periodically check them for the 1 in 25 upcoming items I do want to see. If I could subscribe to a feed of upcoming keyword/wishlist items with a handy link to record, I could easily scan recent matches and ignore or record items without having to dive into deep menus on my TiVo.
In addition to Hulu, I guess I'd like to see something more like boxee where I could play any media file on my TiVo (which is just a small computer capable of running anything), but given TiVo's ties to the major studios, I doubt that ever happens.
There's a great long post at Engadget commemorating the ten years of TiVo and along with it are five ideas for how TiVo could improve. I really like all the suggestions and would love to see TiVo try at least a few of them. When TiVo was on the ropes a few years ago I wanted to do a "100 ways to save TiVo" post (ala Wired's 101 ways to save Apple issue) but me and a few friends petered out of ideas after 30-40 of them. A lot of the ideas were similar in some ways to the Engadget ideas by basically extending the TiVo box in ways the studios probably don't want them to.
Usually these sorts of posts where a blogger posts a few ideas never get anywhere, but amazingly enough, TiVo's head of marketing sent Engadget a response. It's got quite a bit of marketing boosterism in it without too much concrete plans for the future, but it's good that TiVo is at least listening to criticism.
I forgot to post this soon after it went up, but a few weeks ago, my friend Peter Merholz got to do a long interview with Margret Schmidt, head of User Experience for TiVo. It's in three parts on the Adaptive Path blog: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. In it, they talk about the design of the interface, how new features are developed, how groups work internally at TiVo, and how user experience ties into the business aspects of TiVo.
A few years ago I got to ask Ms. Schmidt a bunch of questions about the design of the TiVo remotes, how the user interface of TiVo was developed, and my personal favorite -- how they designed the audio bleeps and bloops that still to this day are the only helpful sounds I've used in a consumer device.
There's been a recent update to TiVo boxes, enabling two famous and long-rumored features: Netflix support and Ads displayed while pausing/fast-forwarding. Both were first discussed on this site four years ago and it wasn't until this week that both finally became available for TiVo users.
The Netflix support is really good, exactly like using a dedicated Roku box. You add things to your Instant Queue on the Netflix website, then walk over to your TiVo to play them. Unfortunately you can't search for new movies from your couch and have to use a computer to interact with the Netflix website, but the the syncing is nearly instant and easy enough to use. Video quality is quite good and I had some low-end HD video that looked a lot like the AppleTV's 720p HD movies. Movie selection is limited to studios that allow for Netflix streaming but one of my favorite genres (Documentary) is well represented.
The ads displayed during fast forwarding has been a long time coming and raised quite a ruckus when it first was announced. Gizmodo has a screenshot of what they look like and say it's only on the older Series 2 boxes for now. On first glance it doesn't seem as invasive as I envisioned, but it does seem like a distraction from the way a TiVo is typically used.
I caught the news on Crave that m.tivo.com was launching as a new mobile presence for adding shows to your TiVo. TiVo previously had a mobile interface for Verizon customers (and they charged for it), but thankfully the new approach seems to follow a much more open model: a simplified HTML site open to anyone.
It definitely seems to be programmed with the iPhone in mind as it's very easy to use on one. I'll definitely use the site when I'm out and about and suddenly wonder if I was recording a major sporting event or a new show set to debut.
Here are a couple screenshots from my iPhone viewing the site this morning:
Daily picks (nice to see updated content that would make me check the site out more often):
Viewing a show when logged in (recording options match what you'd see on a TiVo screen nicely):
I just caught a showing of Tropic Thunder the other day, a goofy comedy about the movie industry and there's a running gag between one of the stars and his agent about getting a TiVo. It came up so many times I thought I should try and get a copy of the film and do a TiVo montage from it. After about an hour of editing, I give you every mention of TiVo in Tropic Thunder (spoiler alert: including a scene from the climax of the movie and the audio is NSFW):
I wonder if TiVo paid for all that product placement?