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Television Media

Can TiVo be Saved? 604

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the people-have-been-saying-this-for-five-years dept.
ChipGuy writes "TiVo's death watch has begun. The company is having a tough time finding traction in the marketplace, as more and more competitors rush into the market, most of them deep pocketed satellite and cable companies. But is all lost? What if the company went private and became the anti-cable, letting us download, store, organize, and serve media from both cable and -- this is the important part -- the internet. Others believe that TiVo should get into the content aggregation business."
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Can TiVo be Saved?

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  • by lecithin (745575) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:02PM (#11745661)
    I have held off from getting TiVo or the equivalant as I had figured that this would happen. Just like most types of technology things get smaller and cheaper. (then the big boys take over)

    I figure that the Cable companies are going to move very quickly in this arena. My own (Comcast) offers "On Demand" programming right now for free. I can view programs, store and play later as if it were a movie/DVD. It sounds like the next step is to watch what ever you want, when you want as long as you pay what they want.

    I can wait for it all to come together, I know how to program my VCR.

    • by superpulpsicle (533373) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:14PM (#11745795)
      If Tivo got rid of the subscription model, I'd buy a Tivo box right now. While I haven't see any Myth TV linux solutions, I have seen comcast On-Demand with video recorder counterparts. And Tivo feels like a rip off in comparison.

      • Think of the lifetime subscription as a fixed cost for the TiVo box...did you buy your TiVo yet?
      • by jcostantino (585892) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:24PM (#11745905) Homepage
        You can buy the box and a lifetime subscription instead of subsidizing the cost of the Tivo via the monthly fee. Unfortunately, it seems as though the "lifetime" of the company won't allow you to get you money's worth on a lifetime subscription.
        • Better yet, why dont Tivo and NetFlix partner/merge. They could provide a complete conenction to millions of titles. All you do is set your queue and it will DL directly to the tivo device.

          Also, what could be done is each device that gets a title registers with the seeder, and it will DL/UL titles via swarming (Bittorrent) from the other devices that have/want the same titles.

          Securing the network can be tricky, sure - but that part ill leave to tivo/netflix/hackers.

        • You can buy the box and a lifetime subscription instead of subsidizing the cost of the Tivo via the monthly fee.

          If you pay that lifetime subscription, you have no idea what you're buying. First is the issue of whether they stay in business, as you noted. But besides that, they reserve the right to change the service at any time in the future... previous "upgrades" include reporting your viewing back to TiVo, automatically recording comercials, and now (from what I hear) interrupting fast-forwarding to

          • "If you pay that lifetime subscription, you have no idea what you're buying."

            Not really... $300 will buy you approximately two years of programming ($12.95 a month). If Tivo lasts longer than that, you win!
      • by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:29PM (#11745963) Homepage Journal
        " If Tivo got rid of the subscription model, I'd buy a Tivo box right now. "

        This puzzles me....are there really THAT many people out there that pay the monthly fee, rather than the one time lifetime sub. fee? I figure the one time chunk of money into the whole price.

        Maybe its me...I hate paying monthly on something if I can get it all out of the way once and for all...

        • This puzzles me....are there really THAT many people out there that pay the monthly fee, rather than the one time lifetime sub. fee? I figure the one time chunk of money into the whole price.

          Lifetime subscriptions, as yours is about to attest, are really min(my lifetime, company lifetime).

          People go through this with every new fad and new technology/service. Health clubs used to all have "lifetime memberships", but at least in my area that became highly regulated many years ago because so many people tho
        • The lifetime subscription price is $299 versus $12.95 a month, that gives you 2 years to break even from the lifetime subscription. Having purchased the Tivo recently (and hacked it to 320 hours, whoot!), I realized that 2 years is an awful long time in a market that is only just emerging. In all probability, this tivo box will be obsolete by the time 2007 rolls around and I'll be changing my service anyway, or Tivo will be out of business altogether. So, I chose the monthly subscription.
        • by Gudlyf (544445)
          Why pay any fee at all? I grabbed one of the Toshiba Tivo/DVD Series2 units from EBay [anrdoezrs.net] for about $120, which includes TiVo service, albeit "Basic" service. (Basic service doesn't allow Season Pass subscriptions but you can still record shows as normal, use the guide, pause live shows, etc.)
    • by Corporate Drone (316880) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:22PM (#11745889)
      My own (Comcast) offers "On Demand" programming right now for free. I can view programs, store and play later as if it were a movie/DVD. It sounds like the next step is to watch what ever you want, when you want as long as you pay what they want.

      Have you actually used on Demand? You only get what Comcast decides to store; you don't get to choose what programs you can time-shift. and, of course, you're not "storing" anything -- you're getting whatever programs are held centrally.

      The "VCR-style" buttons are a joke -- there's a 4-5 second delay between your remote control button press and the response (good luck trying to stop a program at a given location!).

      And, it may "seem" that the next step is full on-demand access to programming, but that's quite naive. keep in mind -- this "on demand" functionality only appeared as a response to DVR feature sets; if DVR competition were to disappear from the marketplace, and their chokehold on content distribution restored, do you really expect them to expand this functionality?!?!

      • Yes, I have used on-Demand. You are correct, the storage is not local.

        It may be a 'joke' to you, but it works and right now for free. (and you can store some things locally)

        No. I don't expect them to expand functionality. I expect them to buy somebody that knows how to do it right. Then they can fuck it up well.

      • My cable company will be starting to offer DVRs inside the cable boxes soon, as well as the current on-demand programming.
      • You're right in that On Demand pretty much sucks. There are hardly any programs that you would actually want to watch - unless if you have HBO, I guess. Also, the VCR-style buttons are very laggy and very annoying to use.

        You're wrong in that On Demand is Comcast's answer to TiVO. DVR is Comcast's answer to TiVo. They don't advertise it yet, but if you call Comcast, they will have a DVR box installed in your home soon. For $9.99 a month you get a dual-tuner HD box with a 120GB HD. I've had it for about 2 mo
    • by Quarters (18322) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:59PM (#11746331)
      I have held off from getting TiVo or the equivalant as I had figured that this would happen.

      You've missed out on having a really useful appliance for over five years. I understand being pragmatic, but that's like saying "I didn't get a computer, console, etc..) because I knew the successor would be out about a half decade later."

    • by daVinci1980 (73174) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:32PM (#11748356) Homepage
      I can wait for it all to come together, I know how to program my VCR.

      That's great that you know how to program your VCR.

      Please set up your VCR to record only first-run episodes of Law & Order that come on NBC, and all episodes that come on TNT. Oh, but don't record an episode if you've recorded in the previous 30 days. And please make sure to automatically have your VCR keep up with the scheduling, so that when NBC decides to start adding one extra minute to the show to throw of your VCR, it records the extra minute as well. Oh, and if the Simpsons comes on at the same time as any of those episodes on TNT, please record those instead. And when the network delays the start of Law and Order because the baseball game went long, please make sure to have your VCR pick up on that as well. Oh, and given that I like Law and Order, could you please set up your VCR to record other shows that it feels I might be interested in.

      People who make the argument that Tivo is just a smarter VCR completely miss the point. They're akin to the people who assume that any article that begins with 'Bill Gates donated $1B to help immunize people in third world countries' must end with 'in a bid to avoid paying taxes.'

      Tivo is not just a smart VCR. It's not missing shows that you want to watch. It's watching your shows in 21 minutes per 30 minutes recorded. It's keeping track of schedule changes. It's coming home late at night and watching *whatever the hell you want to.*

      But look on the bright side. Assuming that this (like every other doomsday article to come out about Tivo in the last five years) is correct, you can rest assured that you didn't waste any money on bending TV to your will. Me? I'm glad to have given $500 to a company who makes a great product, and I wish them the greatest success.

  • About TiVo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bryan Ischo (893) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:02PM (#11745669) Homepage
    I work for TiVo.

    Believe me, it can be very disheartening to work for an innovator in a marketplace where large established companies have such control over the distribution channels.

    Cable companies and satellite companies already have a "lock" to a large extent on their customers and for them to sell an additional service such as a DVR requires so much less capital investment in marketing, and let's face it, making a good product, than it takes for a company like TiVo.

    And those companies already have much deeper pockets than a small company like TiVo with which to absorb the losses associated with pushing this rather expensive technology out to users.

    It's kind of funny to me that people will pay $80 cable bills without a whimper but will cry foul at the concept of paying $13 a month to TiVo to make the cable service so much more worthwhile.

    Cable DVRs suck. Most people would be much happier with a TiVo and would find the extra expense to be justified. I know I'm biased but I honestly believe that.

    My comments are my own and I do not speak for my employer.
    • Re:About TiVo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mzwaterski (802371) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:06PM (#11745712)
      The cable companies can more efficiently provide the same services that TiVo can provide. They haven't completely duplicated the service of TiVo yet but they have charged a heck of a lot less. What can TiVo provide that cable companies can't/don't that justifies the cost? No offense intended to you or TiVo of course.
      • Re:About TiVo (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Bryan Ischo (893) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:11PM (#11745764) Homepage
        No offense taken.

        TiVo can provide technical innovation. Cable companies are generally not known for their ability to innovate technology or to produce compelling products such as set top boxes like TiVo with new and advanced features. They tend to "follow leads" as is obvious now with the crop of second-rate DVRs that they are releasing.

        We'll see how this plays out. Either the technical superiority of TiVo will win out or the lower-cost, lower-quality options that the cable companies can offer will win out. Actually it's likely that both will win and retain some part of the market, the question is, how large a part for each respectively?

        Believe me, no one at TiVo is under any delusions that we don't have to work *very hard* to stay ahead of the pack and retain technical superiority.

        I feel that especially on this topic, I have to remind everyone that I speak for myself and not TiVo.
        • Re:About TiVo (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mzwaterski (802371)
          I've never owned TiVo, only used it a few times. Does TiVo provide free updates to the UI/features that are useful on a regular basis?

          Part of my problem with TiVo is that it requires an upfront cost followed by a subscription cost. I know you can do the 300$ lifetime subscription, but thats TiVo's lifetime and currently things don't look that great. So I buy this box and a year later some new tech comes out (enter HDTV) and my box is no good. With the cable companies subscription plan, they absorb the c

          • Re:About TiVo (Score:4, Informative)

            by hawk (1151) <hawk@eyry.org> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:27PM (#11746668) Journal
            I've never owned TiVo, only used it a few times. Does TiVo provide free updates to the UI/features that are useful on a regular basis?

            Not only free, but they happen automatically.

            From time to time, you end up with downloads of updated software. This tends to be piecemeal for regular tivos that get it by phone, and all at once on satellite. If it needs to, it reboots at some obscure time of the morning (I think it even worns you first).

            As far as competing with cable, look at their deal with directv (which may or may not be ending, depending upon which rumors you believe). Someone is subsidizing hardware costs ($99), and it's only $5/month. And look at the portion (huge majority) of tivo subscribers with directivo . . .

            hawk
        • To be fair, cable co's are not generally known for their ability to deliver a one way analog signal particularly well, let alone two way digital. And yet people still pay $80 a month for a crappy service and worse customer service.

          I am a very happy satellite customer and would never consider cable ever again. I would rather not have television than deal with a cable company ever again. Thus far the sat co's attempts at rolling their own DVR's have been lackluster, and I hope they decide to stick with Ti
        • Re:About TiVo (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Johnny Mnemonic (176043) <mdinsmore@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:31PM (#11745993) Homepage Journal

          We'll see how this plays out. Either the technical superiority of TiVo will win out or the lower-cost, lower-quality options that the cable companies can offer will win out.

          As an Apple watcher for 20 years, I would say this: pack up your desk. Cheaper almost always wins in the marketplace; US consumers are trained to evaluate on price first, features second. The feature has to be really visible--visible in the Best Buy or WalMart floor space where the consumer makes their purchasing decision--for it to trump price. And your features aren't; you only see the value after use. That means either taking the plunge because you didn't know alternatives exist, or were pointed to it by a friend. Compared to the free advertising ComCast has on their own channels, good luck with that.

          While your product is stellar, and I'm a fanatic user myself, I think it takes too long for folks to appreciate the advantages of the TiVo. And, "too long", in this case, means >10 minutes. How do you market the advantages, without saying simply "easier to use"?

          I'm really hoping that the NetFlix deal can save your asses. I'm guessing it won't; it's too far away before release, it'll take too long to download stuff, and/or not enough stuff will be available. TivoToGo, while maybe nice (I dunno, I'm a Mac user), doesn't seem to be the killer feature, either: too long to transfer.

          I might suggest that you have some chance if you declare war on ComCast, since they didn't play ball with the distribution deal: allow for unrestricted copying/transfer/ad skip/archiving without ads, and only stop it if they come back to the table. That's pretty chancy, but it might the the only shot y'all have.

          Good luck--really. But if it all falls apart, please consider releasing enough info to keep the current boxes useful.

          • Re:About TiVo (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Schnapple (262314)
            TivoToGo can be saved with one feature:

            Let me download an MPEG2 file which I can burn with any DVD burning program

            Not that DRM-protected file you give me, and not something I can only legally use Sonic MyDVD 6.1 on. Something I can feed to Nero without dancing through illegal hoops on.

            Let's be honest - no one gives a crap about spending two hours to download a one hour show. We want to burn them to DVD. Period. And we don't want to futz with MythTV, we want to do it with a piece of hardware we can get

            • Re:About TiVo (Score:3, Interesting)

              by powerlord (28156)
              It can already provide a file that can be burned with MyDVD and Nero. The only issue with the encryption is that it needs the DRM module to access, so for now it only works on Windows. Hope they change that soon but it certainly addresses 90% of their market (at least).

              Of course, there are tools right now that will let you rip the DRM off of the .tivo and turn it into a .mpeg (http://www.zatznotfunny.com/ttg.htm [zatznotfunny.com]
              ) but those aren't native to tivo. I'm sure a 'simpler' approach will show up soon. They (T
          • Re:About TiVo (Score:5, Insightful)

            by hawk (1151) <hawk@eyry.org> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:22PM (#11746610) Journal
            >As an Apple watcher for 20 years, I would say this: pack up your desk.

            Yeah. I remember Apple. Pity they went out of business :)

            More seriously, if they spend as long going out of business as Apple has, he can pack *very* slowly.

            hawk
        • Re:About TiVo (Score:3, Informative)

          by Canuck_TV (804581)
          Cable companies are generally not known for their ability to innovate technology or to produce compelling products such as set top boxes like TiVo with new and advanced features

          tee hee. Thanks for the morning laugh. You've obviously been at Tivo too long. What the cable companies have done with their little one-way coax network defies belief... Trust me. I work for one (sort of... long story). Try to find another single service provider who can give you everything the cable plant does on 2 conductors. Cab
          • Re:About TiVo (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Bryan Ischo (893) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:10PM (#11746472) Homepage
            How exactly are "VOD, Broadband, VoIP, FM radio, other misc data services (ie Alarm monitoring)" innovations of cable companies?

            Cable companies were simply in the fortunate position to be able to re-purpose infrastructure that they had already laid down for another purpose (analog TV distribution). And the repurposing that they did took extra investment in digital set top boxes and cable modem hardware, and who knows whatever infrastructure at their head end. No innovation there at all. It's not like they "invented" the internet or any service thereon that by happy coincidence for them have added value to their service.

            DirecTV with TiVo DVRs have all of the advantages that you mentioned about the SA boxes, and they're better DVRs to boot.

            I speak for me and not TiVo again (obviously).
        • by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @03:22PM (#11747400)
          We'll see how this plays out. Either the technical superiority of TiVo will win out or the lower-cost, lower-quality options that the cable companies can offer will win out. Actually it's likely that both will win and retain some part of the market, the question is, how large a part for each respectively?

          If you haven't already it sounds like you need to read The Innovator's Dilemma [amazon.com] by Clayton Christensen. The DVRs the cable companies put out don't have to be better to put TiVo out of business. They just have to be good enough, cheaper and easy to get. Being a technology leader is only valuable if three things are true. First, that you can stay a technology leader and protect that position. (through futher innovation, patents, etc) Second, that your technology leadership either lets you be the low cost provider OR that customers value your technology such that it lets you charge a premium for your services. Third, that you have economicly viable access to the right distribution channels. TiVo is arguably the technology leader in the DVR industry but I think it is failing on the maybe the second and definitely the third conditions.

          Let me give you an example. Most of us criticize (rightly IMO) Microsoft for a lack of innovation. But being the leader isn't always the best business strategy. Economists call Microsoft a fast follower. They don't innovate. They don't know how to. And if they tried, they'd fail. But what they do very successfully is watch the leaders in the market and then copy their innovations while leveraging their strengths in marketing, distribution. OS/2 challeged Windows NT a few years back. Result? Windows 95. It wasn't better than OS/2 technologically but it was good enough and Microsoft controled the distribution channels. (plus IBM shot themselves in the foot repeatedly) They can learn from the innovations and mistakes of the innovators and come out with a good enough product that most customers will buy. Sure, it's not a glamorous strategy but being a fast follower can be very, very effective.

          The downside of being a fast follower? You might not be able to catch the market leader if you aren't quick enough. Microsoft hasn't been able to catch Intuit with their Microsoft Money product despite years of trying. They got caught on the wrong side of an installed base. Being a successful fast follower requires lots of resources and an acute ear for what the market is telling you. But it also means that if there is a fundamental shift in the market or if you misread the market, you're screwed. Microsoft may have be screwed because Open Source could be one of those tectonic shifts ("disruptive technologies" in my Christensen's terminologies) that fundamentally alters the market place such that their own organizational structure no longer permits them to compete effectively. Whether this is actually the case remains the be seen.

          The other problem with being a fast follower is that if you are too good, you end up a monopoly with no on to copy from. As a result a successful fast follower either stagnates or has to move into other industries to grow. Microsoft is in this position right now. Their core OS and Office products are stagnant monopolies. Very profitable but unlikely to provide massive growth. So Microsoft is having to branch out into other lines of business. Dell is doing somewhat the same thing. They're so successful in selling PC's they are having to branch into printers, PDAs and other technologies to continue to grow.
      • What can TiVo provide that cable companies can't/don't that justifies the cost?

        Although not an apples-to-apples comparison, but I won't even consider going back to cable from DirecTV until cable can offer a DVR that can record 2 shows at once and also record HD content. Trust me, I'm terribly unhappy with the lack of feature updates coming from DirecTV for their TiVo boxes, and I'd jump back to cable as soon as a comparable offering was available.

        • Re:About TiVo (Score:5, Interesting)

          by smackjer (697558) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:21PM (#11745884) Homepage
          I have a Comcast DVR that is dual tuner, so it can record two shows at once, and it records HD. It has other features that Tivo does not, such as a Firewire port to offload content (which I haven't used yet so I can't really vouch for it). Best part: I didn't have to shell out ~$1000 for an HD-capable DVR, and since I don't have good enough line-of-sight for satellite, it's pretty much my only option for recording HD.

          It's only a matter of time before your local cable company has similar features.

          I also have a Series 2 Tivo, which has been relegated to bedroom duty, and had a Series 1 in the past. I have LOVED Tivo (both the product and the company) since 2001. Tivo's software is *slightly* easier to use than my Comcast DVR, but until they catch up in HD support they will lose ground.
        • I'm on Rogers with the Scientific Atlanta 8300HD. It can record 2 HD shows simultaneously, with the ability to simultaneously play back an HD recording.

          Alternatively, I can record 1 show while watching another.
        • There are cable DVRs that do this. Motorola makes one. I forget the model number, but it's out there.
      • As a user of both a TiVo and a DVR from my Cable company, I can tell you that the Cable company's idea of what a DVR should do is ridiculous. The TiVo is a vastly superior product in every way, save one -- it cannot record digital cable natively.

        The designers of the Cable DVR are either a bunch of incredible fools, or could care less about the viewing experience of the customer (probably a little bit of both).

    • Re:About TiVo (Score:4, Insightful)

      by otis wildflower (4889) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:08PM (#11745734) Homepage
      Cable DVRs suck. Most people would be much happier with a TiVo and would find the extra expense to be justified. I know I'm biased but I honestly believe that.

      True, but...
      * I want a DVI+SPDIF/HDMI input and HD recording capability
      * I want faster menus and wishlist processing
      * I want nobody to ever mess with 30 second skip. DO NOT FUCK WITH 30 SECOND SKIP.
      * I want to be able to watch my TiVo recordings on my P800 fone and/or a video iPod
      * weather, stock, headline, etc. applets would be nice.

      Cable DVRs do suck, but they also do digital sound and hi-def. They don't handle DVD burning though, and I _may_ upgrade to a DVD-capable DVR in the next few months, remains to be seen whether it's a TiVo unit or some kind of HTPC Linux box..
      • Too late (Score:5, Insightful)

        by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:42PM (#11746114)
        I want nobody to ever mess with 30 second skip. DO NOT FUCK WITH 30 SECOND SKIP.

        I got the Charter DVR service from Charter Communications as a test, which is a Motorola BMC9012 running Digeo's MOXI software.

        When first set up, the skip button was a 30 second skip, and replay was a 7 second reverse jump.

        After the box downloaded its first software update, the skip button stopped working. It became a 15 minute skip. What the fuck purpose is a 15 minute skip?

        I called Charter to inquire about this. I asked what the purpose of the 15 minute skip button was; they responded that it was to jump quickly into a program (WTF?). I asked them why it was no longer a 30 second skip. The person I was talking to responded that it was "illegal" to have a 30 second skip.

        After I recovered myself from this egregiously wrong statement, I informed him there was no state of federal law prohibiting a 30 second skip on a PVR, and further informed him of other PVRs that do just that. He insisted there was "a law". I asked to speak to his supervisor, who again told me it was "against the law" to have a 30 second skip, and that Charter had to "obey they law". I again informed him there was no such law, and asked him to cite any such law. The conversation essentially went nowhere. I tried the next day with the same result.

        While pondering the absurdity of it all, I got a call back from a manager at Charter who had apparently become aware of my call. He apologized for the phone representatives saying that it was "illegal"...he said, essentially, that they shouldn't have said it was "illegal" or "against the law", but that Charter had "legal concerns" with its content providers and advertisers. I pointed out that Charter's corporate "legal concerns" are a lot different than something being "illegal", and that the phone agents might not want to tell people that.

        But ultimately, how many people will get DVR services like this and never know there was such a thing as a 30-second skip? They'll be tickled that they can record 40 hours of video (not knowing they could record 400 by just adding a drive, which of course is disabled on this box) and fast forward through commercials like a VCR, and that they can pay Charter an extra monthly fee to watch the recorded content on another TV in their own home (not knowing that it's technically possible to also watch it on their laptop, PDA, portable media player, or anywhere else they should be able to watch it). And the ones who do know about the 30-second skip will probably swallow Charter's "we can't do it because it's illegal" copout.

        And when July rolls around, those same people won't wonder how we're unable to do things we could do 30 years ago with the VCR when their DVR box tells them they're not allowed to record ER in HD (and that they must watch it live), and a call to Charter only elicits the blameless "Well, we have to follow what the TV networks make us do - it's not our fault..."

        The cable and satellite providers might be in the best position to provide DVR services that can tune all of the subscribed channels on their networks directly, without having to have some kind of convoluted IR Blaster setup or multiple settops, but they're also in the best position to severely restrict the featuresets and functionality of those boxes as well...
        • Re:Too late (Score:3, Insightful)

          Here's a suddenly-realized question for you: Why don't VCRs have a 30-sec skip feature? I've never seen one.

          For that matter, why don't VCR (and now DVD) players have 2-level sound settings? I've noticed that movies generally have ultra-loud scenes and soft scenes, like battles and conversations; it would be useful to have 2 sound levels set to accomodate these.
    • Re:About TiVo (Score:2, Interesting)

      by GreyWolf3000 (468618)
      The problem as I see it is that TiVo doesn't seem to provide anything that a geek with a Linux box couldn't. Hence, it isn't really "guarded" against competition.

      Granted, TiVo has a much lower price point than, say, a small EPIA. But, for example, until July 1st, HDTV capture cards are available. And you can take a Linux PVR and do all sorts of neat stuff with it--add a RAID array, share the files over samba, etc.

    • I think the thing that really kills TiVO isn't necessarily the advertising or whatnot, it's the fact that cable/sattelite companies can charge only $5 or $10 a month for DVR, with no equipment to buy. There's really no way for TiVO to compete.
      • Re:About TiVo (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bryan Ischo (893) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:20PM (#11745872) Homepage
        The costs associated with getting a product into retail channels are nothing to sneeze at. Also the costs associated with advertising these products is not cheap either. Cable companies don't have to put their products into retail channels and can advertise pretty much "for free" on their own service (not really for free since whatever time they use to advertise could have been used to make advertising revenue, except in those cases where they air their ads in the time slots that otherwise weren't bought).

        But I agree with your fundamental point that it's the subsidy that they can give to their customers in the monthly fee area and hardware that is most significant.
    • So quit locking down the content.

      TiVo where I have access to what I record would be useful. As it stands, my old Series 1 has died and I am almost certainly going with MythTV or EyeTV (Mac) because I will have access to what I have recorded. DRM'd Tivo To Go is garbage.

    • Re:About TiVo (Score:3, Interesting)

      by m2bord (781676)
      I completely see your point however, please let me tell you why I'll never own a Tivo or a Replay or any other system.

      I'm a control freak. I like to know what's going on and who's doing it.

      Tivo controls the box. They control the size of the drive inside the box, they control the data that's on the box, and they ultimately could control what can and cannot be saved onto the box.

      And while it is true that some can "hack" the box, Tivo has not given users permission to do so.

      Tivo alone maintains control and
    • Why doesn't TiVo become a software company?

      Seriously, why doesn't TiVo license its cool interface and technology into the existing cable boxes? I would love it if my Comcast box had TiVo software on it, because TiVo knows how to write good software. Who cares what hardware it runs on?

      Also, I think TiVo should get into writing PVR software for PCs for hackers. Although, hackers hardly pay for anything, so maybe that's not such a good idea.
    • Re:About TiVo (Score:3, Insightful)

      by radish (98371)
      It's good to speak to someone from Tivo - I'm a big fan.

      I used to live in the UK (where Tivo have to all intents and purposes closed down) and was one of the few die hard Tivo'ers. I had my box, hacked in a bigger HD, added the network card, TivoWeb, etc etc. When Sky+ came along I defended Tivo to the hilt - it _was_ better. The menus were better, the season passes worked better, it was much more friendly to non-techs.

      So anyway, now I live in the US. I have cable TV (satellite isn't available in my build
    • Re:About TiVo (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tgd (2822)
      I hope the understanding of why people are moving away from Tivo is more widespread within the company. If not, perhaps being out of touch with thet customer is the problem.

      I cancelled my Tivo service about a month ago. I was an early adopter -- I had a unit within a month or so of their release, and by my best estimates somewhere around 40 people have Tivos right now because of firsthand contact with seeing mine. Who knows how many people got them by seeing those people's Tivos.

      Why did I cancel? Tivo is
  • maybe (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:02PM (#11745672)
    Maybe if TiVo has patents on their system, they can use those to make enough money to stay afloat for a while?
  • ChipGuy (Score:5, Funny)

    by kngthdn (820601) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:03PM (#11745689) Homepage
    Whoever this ChipGuy fellow is, he sure hates Tivo! Not only is this story a dupe, but ChipGuy submitted both of them. I wonder how many were rejected. ; )

    Here's the original [slashdot.org].
  • Proof (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nightsweat (604367) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:04PM (#11745693)
    Tivo's problems are proof that you can not meet the RIAA/MPAA/advertisers halfway. They will screw you.

    You either have to roll over completley or get ready for a long hard battle that you will win. TIVO wimped out and tried to make everyone happy, in the process making very few people happy. They'll get bought by someone. I'd like it to be Apple, but I'm skeptical.
  • by jargoone (166102) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:05PM (#11745702)
    Pick your poison:

    1. "My cable company's DVR works just fine, why should I pay extra for a TiVO?"
    2. "I don't watch TV, why do I want a TiVo?"
    3. "My MythTV box only took me 3 weeks to get working, and I will probably only have to mess with the guide data stream a few times a year, and the hardware only cost twice as much as a TiVo."

    We've heard them all before...
    • I am curious why you categorize this as a "hater"?

      I do not watch TV, I do not have cable or satellite. I do watch DVDs for which I have a suitable TV for them.

      I think TIVO is a nice technology but I have zero use for one. Best of luck to them. Don't classify those of us who do not watch TV as "haters"
    • Cue economics 101 (Score:3, Interesting)

      by swb (14022)
      1. "My cable company's DVR works just fine, why should I pay extra for a TiVO?"

      A cable DVR from Crime-Warner is like $8 a month and does several things SA Tivos don't do, like digital sound and HD, and doesn't require hackery like IR emitters and glacial channel changing speeds.

      I'll agree that it's substandard software to be sure, but when ordinary people make decisions it comes down to money -- an SA Tivo takes YEARS (box + lifetime) before its ROI exceeds the cable box, and the cable box can be traded
  • Steps (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cthrall (19889) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:05PM (#11745709) Homepage
    1. Tivo licenses content.
    2. Tivo provides nice search interface for Tivo BitTorrent client.
    3. Tivo provides centralized Torrent servers and includes content in $12.95.
    4. Goodbye cable!

    Has anybody tried the new SDK [sourceforge.net]? It's pretty cool...they should have done it from the beginning.
    • In case TIVO is listening, I'd pay much more than $12.95 for this. If I had access to all the same stuff as is on my cable line only it was on demand at any time after the shows first released I'd go so far as to pay a premium for this service of about 10% over my current cable bill.
  • And? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:09PM (#11745749) Journal
    I'm missing where the "death watch" comes from. They've lost some executives and their stock price is down. Is there any real bad news in there?

    But, since we've been told to start sharing our unininformed opinions:

    1) I don't see where turning TiVo into an Internet storage device is a huge win. Yeah, maybe it's a good idea and they should do it, but that will be just as easy for others to duplicate as the PVR business.

    2) I'm not sure whether Jarvis is hinting that they should become a warez enabler, but if he is, that's a dead-end business plan. As surely as piracy will continue to exist, that surely will it remain impossible to run a major business on that model in developed countries.

  • Ala-carte viewing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Aggrazel (13616) <aggrazel@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:11PM (#11745765) Journal
    Would be nice if they could stream the TV shows off the internet so you could buy what channels (or what shows) you wanted ala-carte. I hate paying $40 a month for my cable when I only watch one network (ESPN) that isn't on the basic $10 a month list.
  • Sounds great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TrippTDF (513419) <hiland AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:13PM (#11745782)
    Content aggregation sounds like a great idea, but remember that cable companies have a lot of exisiting ties with the media companies that actually produce the content. Even if Tivo starts doing this, the second they turn profitable the cable companies will play their relationships (I've worked in entertainment... the whole industry is about the relationships) with the media companies to undercut Tivo and get them out. I like the idea of Tivo, but I think the company is fighting an uphill battle.

    I say they get bought by Comcast or Time Warner before the end of the decade.
  • I want my IP TV (Score:2, Interesting)

    by steelem (694396)
    Seriously Tivo, make it happen - screw cable companies, start making deals with history channel, discovery, etc. and provide their content on demand. That will be the only way forward. And when is this netflix deal going to be a reality in terms of service? Hurry, there's not much time for you guys...
  • by essaunders (469150) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:18PM (#11745843)
    Not to sound pessimistic, but what happens to all the Tivo boxes if the subscription Tivo relies on goes away? Can they be converted to work with other schedulers? Would they at least maintain a basic 'dumb' disk-based VCR like capability?
    • Not to sound pessimistic, but what happens to all the Tivo boxes if the subscription Tivo relies on goes away? Can they be converted to work with other schedulers? Would they at least maintain a basic 'dumb' disk-based VCR like capability?

      Series 1 boxes stay as 'dumb' VCRs. Series 2 boxes, apparently not.

      However, the TiVo is very hackable, and people (reportedly) know how to add guide data. Such hacks are unreleased now out of respect for TiVo, but if they go out of business they'll probably be availab
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:19PM (#11745854) Homepage
    Apple had the first GUI, but it lost to the Windows. Dreamcast came out first, but lost to the PS2. Sony was first with Beta, but lost to VHS. And Diamond Multimedia came out with the first MP3 player, but TOTALLY lost out to Apple!

    I would be MORE shocked if Tivo actually survived.
  • TiVo will fail. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EvilMagnus (32878) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:21PM (#11745875)
    The sad truth is this: TiVo will fail.

    The reasons are simple:

    1. The cable companies are rolling their own DVRs. TiVo failed to get traction here, and it will kill them.

    2. TiVo has hobbled itself. There were features out there that could have helped them (essentially value adds above and beyond the cable company DVRs), but they were too slow to market, and too restrictive in their implementation. Examples: TiVo to Go. Network-able TiVos. Commercial skip. Good features, but TiVo hobbled them (or implemented them late) either through proprietary standards or by not officially advertising them to Joe Sixpack.
  • Too Many Tivo Posts! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Evil W1zard (832703)
    Can TiVo Be Saved? - Feb. 22 (Answer: NO)

    Will New Apps Keep TiVo Afloat? - Feb. 16 (Answer: NO)

    Has TiVo's Fate Been Sealed? Jan. 17 (Answer: NO)

    The No's have it now Die TiVo Die!
  • With all these online petitions to save these series with cult followings, you'd think that TiVo would see that as an opportunity. Imagine buying shows at $1 an episode. Or a full season for a discount. TiVo really needs to turn itself into a delivery platform if it wants to survive. I'm surprised they haven't done it already. I hate to say it but with my ReplayTV, I effictively get free cable via Poopli . I do this because such a service is not available. I would pay if one did exist though... less
  • I have a few DirecTivo units and honestly, I was on the verge of cancelling DirecTV until I got them. Now, I don't want to give them up. Has DirecTV licensed the Tivo software permanently or is it licensed per system? I know DirecTV is actively promoting DirecTivo sales. The ability to record two shows at the same time is a big win! And the Tivo interface is far superior to the other options (say from Dish).
  • by EulerX07 (314098) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:30PM (#11745971)
    Kinda funny that I finish reading an article on news.com about them exceeding 3 million subscribers [com.com], to find out on slashdot that it's dying.

    Is it dying faster or slower then Apple and BSD?

    Disclaimer: Not a Tivo subscriber. I'd like to, but you can't get some of that in Canada.
    • Hard to say. The "oh crap, they're dying" most likely comes from the fact that the majority of their subscribers are through DirecTV, and that DirecTV has chosen both not to renew their contract with Tivo and to pursue their own DVRs.

      They're probably still raking in customers, but the majority of them are still DirecTV folks. And those will start to disappear as DirecTV drops support and people start upgrading in a few years. I believe the contract is through 2007. With DirecTV's impending move to MPEG
  • DirecTivo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sho222 (834270) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:40PM (#11746090)
    Maybe the best bet for Tivo's survival is to get acquired by DirecTV. The Tivo/DirecTV (or "DirecTivo") integration is excellent. I can't even remember how I watched tv at all before I had my DirecTivo box.

    Anyone who has tried Comcast's alternative to Tivo knows that the interface is completely horrible. It actually makes me angry just to think about it.

    When I move this summer, I'm planning on continuing with DirecTV service rather than switching to cable strictly because of the tight integration with Tivo. The Tivo partnership is already a huge asset to DirecTV, they might as well add Tivo to their balance sheet and make it official.

    Tivo is my favorite robot friend (next is Roomba). Tivo has made TV fun and interesting again. I discovered Battlestar Galactica thanks to Tivo. I think I'd cry if Tivo died... seriously.
    • Re:DirecTivo (Score:3, Informative)

      by Overzeetop (214511)
      No. DirecTV has made it clear that they want all the dollars, so they're going to roll their own. It's a shame, really, as the concept for the MPEG4 boxes is very interesting - one server (4 tuners, 250-400GB) connected to remote set top boxes. Pick your remote box as SD or HD (per your set). All the content is shared on the main box. With TiVo, I had hopes of a really nice interface, with DTV calling all th shots, it's probably not going to be pretty.

  • Fixing TiVo? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by unfortunateson (527551) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:42PM (#11746112) Journal
    I really, really like my 1st-gen Tivo. Streaming the whole world's content is probably not in their cards, because of the enormous legal costs to get that started (and defended).

    A good first step would be a CableCard-enabled TiVo, so that it can sit directly on those DRM-laden digital cable nets. But there has to be a significant [b]perceived[/b] improvement over the existing cableco-owned PVR. Multiple tuners, better UI, HD... but it's going to be awfully hard to generate revenue when the cableco's give their boxes away.

    Too bad there's no CableCard equivalent for DirecTV, VOOM, and EchoStar.
  • by metoc (224422) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:43PM (#11746124)
    Take a page from Apple.

    Build a content sales and distribution network to feed you hardware business.

    Apple uses iTunes to promote iPods. Tivo should build an internet version of a cable specialty channel, and distribute content. Bittorrent does it now, Tivo can do it for the Tivoted.

    Apple are you listening? A repackaged Mac Mini (Mac PVR) with TV tuner, more storage, a dedicated remote control and a bittorrent flavoured version of iTunes. And while you are at it buy Tivo. And remember, do it with STYLE
  • by skintigh2 (456496) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:46PM (#11746157)
    "What if the company went private and became the anti-cable, letting us download, store, organize, and serve media from both cable and -- this is the important part -- the internet."

    And they could include networking hardware for free, and networking software for free, and share TV over the Internet, and share it to the PC using free open source software, and then they could change their name to ReplayTV since they have been doing all of that for years?

    Yes, sharing and auto-commercial-skipping is disabled in the new ones, but who buys the new ones.

    But seriously, if Tivo copied everything my Replay does (and maybe call it "innovating" like they did with Tivo To Go) and let me **store** and play my MP3s from the Tivo, I would covert in a heartbeat. I have yet to see a stereo component that lets me store my MP3s - I either have to use my portable, or spend $300 for a fancy LCD that needs my computer running 24/7.
  • by DaFrogBoy (519141) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:51PM (#11746206) Homepage
    One of the greatest things about HDTV is that it is sent over the air. Why pay for a cable service at all if you can get the shows you want via antenna and get the highest quality available. Not to mention, you can search shows and get a guide of what's on through your Tivo.

    I think *because* of HDTV that Tivo will come back.

    Cable/Satelite $65 per month with DVR functionality

    Over the Air HDTV $14 per month with Tivo service

    I'll save the extra $50 a day gladly.
  • Bankruptcy (Score:3, Informative)

    by fm6 (162816) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @01:58PM (#11746322) Homepage Journal
    ... until TiVo either declares bankruptcy, gets acquired, or (hopefully) reports a profitable quarter.
    I wish people would stop using "bankruptcy" to mean "going out of business". Bankruptcy is just a device for postpoining or cancelling your debts. Companies use it to stay in business.
  • by zutroy (542820) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:02PM (#11746380) Homepage
    TiVo doesn't have direct access to the broadband cable stream. It has to rely on stupid little dongles like IR transmitters to communicate with the cable box and change the channel.

    This means that dual-tuner TiVos won't work unless you have two cable boxes, too.

    And then there's the HD problem: TiVos other than DirecTiVos can't record it. This is a big deal for those of us who have switched over to HDTV. I like being able to time-shift a prettier picture.

    I have the Motorola HDTV dual-tuner DVR at home, on Comcast cable. It may not do exactly what a TiVo does, but it's very close. I can set it up to record every time a new episode of a show comes on. I can make it record 2 TV shows, in HD, simultaneously. I can get on-demand programming. And you can even hack the remote (and I use "hack" loosely here) to give you back your precious 30-second skip.

    It doesn't make show recommendations for me, but honestly, I don't care. It does everything else, and it does it well. My parents have TiVo, and they can't record one show while watching another, nor can they time-shift HDTV content.

    TiVo has to fix these shortcomings somehow. It may be that the only way is to partner with the cable companies to get access to the cable box hardware.
    • Not sure why your parents can't watch one recorded program while they are recording another, but ...

      http://www.tivo.com/5.3.1.1.asp?article=234 [tivo.com]

      1/6/2005

      TiVo Developing High-Definition, Digital Cable Ready DVR

      TiVo® DVR with CableCARD Will Offer Flexible, Fully Featured Platform for Accessing HD Broadcast and Broadband Content

      January 6, 2005 - CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW, Las Vegas, NV - TiVo (NASDAQ: TIVO) today will demonstrate a high definition, digital cable ready DVR that will enable TiVo subscr
  • by dmorin (25609) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .niromd.> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @02:58PM (#11747073) Homepage Journal
    As a coder I love the fact they've released an SDK (Java, even!). I've successfully gotten apps to run on my tv. That alone is cool, and conjures up no end of daydreams about the sort of thing that could be enabled with such a home-centralized console. When I hear the Comcast commercials and think "Saving money would be nice" I immediately think "Yes, but I can write code for Tivo," I'm not giving that up. Even if I don't write any reasonable code for it I trust the open source community to come up with some good stuff.

    But that's me. I'm a geek. How are they going to make money from that, does anybody know? Is there a plan to start buying applications from the community and selling them as add on services or something? Or perhaps licensing them so that I as an author make some money based on how many people subscribe to my application? (Imagine the horror show of technical support THAT would be!)

    Surely they can't have gone through all this trouble just to keep we coders thrilled. How does this scale to the larger audience and get Tivo back in the game?

  • by haplo21112 (184264) <[haplo] [at] [epithna.com]> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @04:09PM (#11748037) Homepage
    The way that both cable and SAT are received into the home is so stupid to begin with anyway. If it were fixed (which would probably take government intervention to make companies do it right), TIVO's fortunes would probably be better.

    I have long believed that the providers should only have to install one box in my house in the basement where the cable enters the house. That box should decode all the channels that I have contacted for with my provider. Then those signals should be sent to all of the cable outlets in my house. They used to do something similar to this (I lived in an apartment in Marlborough, MA that did this up until 1999) with the channels effectively de-scrambled at the pole. Only the cable entered the apartment and any TV could watch any channel including the premium ones. Alas that ended in early 2000 when they sent us a letter saying would have to get boxes for continued premium service. (Might I add right after we got the box and all was well for a brief time, we also had to 4 day outage when the screwed the whole transition up, that's another story.)
  • by podperson (592944) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:34PM (#11749158) Homepage
    As a recent TiVo customer (who bought a lifetime subscription) I can't say I'm enormously impressed.

    First, key features that loyal customers raved about have been removed from more recent products (preseumably as a result of pressure from content-owners). So we have a product that in some ways is getting worse rather than better.

    Second, I find the interface quite clumsy. (Sure, it's PRETTY.) It seems like every operation has extra, pointless steps (many of which are confirming non-destructive operations). There is no undo (you can't undelete a program you just deleted in error). The remote control is almost axially symmetric, meaning that in the dark it's quite easy to point it in exactly the wrong direction.

    Third, the out-of-box experience is terrible. It initially needs several hours just to start working (I have no idea why) and it initially incorrectly identified where I live and refused to download the right TV timetable. Even when this was corrected, it continues to record infomercials and label them "Scrubs".

    Finally, TiVo persistently tries to sell stuff to you.

    TiVo's problems, I think, lie in (a) a failure to decide who their customer is and serve their needs and (b) a lack of attention to usability.

    Item (a) is a strategic problem (they seem torn between wanting to partner with content providers, wanting to become a content provider and sell their own advertising space, and wanting to become a video napster 1.0), whereas (b) is tactical (they simply need to stop paying attention to their fawning fans and do some serious self-criticism).

How many QA engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 3: 1 to screw it in and 2 to say "I told you so" when it doesn't work.

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