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Television Businesses Media Entertainment

The Sad History and (Possibly) Bright Future of TiVo 490

Posted by timothy
from the better-to-be-verbed-than-knighted dept.
gjt writes "For the couch-potato geek, one name typically comes to mind: TiVo — the company that invented the DVR, and with it, timeshifting. TiVo has been around for more than 10 years now. And TiVo fans (like myself) tend to love TiVo. Yet, despite being well-loved and despite having been around longer than the Apple iPod, TiVo comes nowhere close to the iPod/iPhone's success. Apple sells more iPod and iPhone products in a single quarter than TiVo has sold in the entire lifetime of the company. At its peak, TiVo had only 4.4 million active users — that was over three years ago. Now TiVo the number is about 2.7 million. So I wanted to find out why TiVo hasn't been more successful — especially with a seeming lack of competition on store shelves. I did some research and posted my finding about TiVo's past, present, and future. The key takeaway seems to be that TiVo is a victim of cable industry collusion, loopholes in FCC regulations, and, of course, plenty of their own mistakes."
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The Sad History and (Possibly) Bright Future of TiVo

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  • by lambent (234167) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:13AM (#31283918)

    perhaps this is a quibbling point, but TiVo didn't invent timeshifting. the invention of the VCR was responsible for that. one should learn about history a bit more before attempting to romanticize it unnecessarily.

    • by daveime (1253762) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:16AM (#31283952)

      I'll have you know my mother invented timeshifting way before the VCR was even thought of. Every TIME a commercial came on the TV she would SHIFT herself into the kitchen and make a cuppa.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:21AM (#31283990)

        Oh yeah! Well, my mother invented the creation of time by turning off the TV and demanding that we don't watch so much of that shit.

        Now, only if she we're here to keep me off of internet discussion sites. I'd have all that time back.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          My mom is The Doctor's mother. So she gave birth to time, sorta.

          And she's a time traveler.

          And she's bigger than your Dad and can beat him up.

          So There.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Chrisq (894406)

            My mom is The Doctor's mother.

            Well my mom is the doctor's mother's mother and father. Its a long story involving time change and gender reassignment.

    • by IBBoard (1128019) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:21AM (#31283994) Homepage

      Surely that depends on what type of "time shifting" you mean. If you're talking about "recording to watch later" then VCRs do it, but "live TV pausing" time-shifts are presumably new to newer technology like the TiVo.

      • by delinear (991444)
        That's what I always understanded by the term, the ability to, for instance, pause a TV stream and then start watching it x amount of time later but before the programme you are recording has ended, or rewinding/fast forwarding within a captured section of a stream before it's ended, something that was certainly not possible with VCR.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Gr8Apes (679165)

          but it's obvious to anyone with knowledge in the arts. Tivo just got to the patent office first with applying this idea to a video stream on a PC, and the PTO in its usual incredibly swift efficiency, granted them patents on obvious technologies.

          The idea of reading data while still writing it to disk has been around since... well, the first or second hard drive.

      • Yes (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Surely that depends on what type of "time shifting" you mean. If you're talking about "recording to watch later"

        Yup. That's what time-shifting has meant since the term was coined.

        In the '70s.

        With the introduction of the VCR.

      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday February 26, 2010 @09:21AM (#31284638) Journal

        Yeah time-shifting is nothing new. It has existed ever since the Sony Umatic VCR released circa 1969. That VCR was too expensive, so Sony went back and created the Betamax (anc JVC copied it to create VHS) in 1975. DVR is not even the first digital recording method - that was miniDV and Digital VHS in the early 1990s. ----- People have been time-shifting for decades. All the DVR did was replace the magnetic tape storage with magnetic disk storage. Nothing revolutionary... it was an evolutionary change.

        As for why Tivo is not more popular? Because there are tons of other options. I have a Panasonic ReplayTV that has no subscription fees whatsoever. Ditto my Dish DTVpal which cost $250 flat and no subscription fees. It seemed a no-brainer to buy these DVRs rather than buy a Tivo with a monthly rental.

        Perhaps if Tivo eliminated the monthly fee, then they'd takeoff like iPod, but most people simply don't see the need to throw-away money like that. They have to budget their spending, which means they choose options without the fees (like I did).

        • by Stele (9443) on Friday February 26, 2010 @10:27AM (#31285354) Homepage

          Perhaps if Tivo eliminated the monthly fee, then they'd takeoff like iPod, but most people simply don't see the need to throw-away money like that. They have to budget their spending, which means they choose options without the fees (like I did).

          Yet people have no problems spending $80+/month so they can text and check sports scores on their phones, when 15 years ago nobody ever wanted, let alone needed to do those things.

          I always thought the monthly Tivo fee was a bargain. It SAVED me tons of time, automatically recording my favorite shows, even if the time slot changed. Knowing that I could go away for a few days, come home, turn on the TV, and have my shows were there waiting for me is worth a lot more to me than being able to stay connected 24/7.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by stdarg (456557)

            Yet people have no problems spending $80+/month so they can text and check sports scores on their phones, when 15 years ago nobody ever wanted, let alone needed to do those things.

            The $80 is for voice service. No plan charges that much to add on text messaging and basic web access! Even an expensive smart phone data plan is $20 - $30.

            Cell phones are a good thing to think about though. Expensive phones took off because you could get them for "free" with a contract and just pay the monthly price. Tivo charges a ridiculous amount for the hardware you get and then $12.95/month in addition!

            $12.95 means you need to be providing a substantial service. I can get HBO and Showtime for $12.95/m

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mr_Silver (213637)

        Surely that depends on what type of "time shifting" you mean. If you're talking about "recording to watch later" then VCRs do it, but "live TV pausing" time-shifts are presumably new to newer technology like the TiVo.

        I've worked with a number of set top box hardware and firmware providers and they call the latter functionality (that is, pausing live TV and then playing it back whilst the programme is still being recorded) "chase play".

    • The Vcr allowed people to record stuff to hopefully watch at another date.
      Tivo brought the ability to timeshift in real time while recording something a vcr cant do.

      the amount that can be recorded is also completely different you can decide to record a season of something and a tivo will do it.

      Sad thing is that the content providers still won't let us have the freedom we want to choose what and when we view. Luckily there is an alternative usually referred to as bit torrent.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wjsteele (255130)
      Also ReplayTV, Microsoft's UltimateTV and TiVo were all introduced at the CES show in 98.

      I'm not sure who actually did it "first." But no licensing deals were struck, so it seems that the patents either had already expired or there were none to begin with due to prior art.

      Bill
    • by Robin newberry (565202) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:57AM (#31284350)
      Actually, my Dad says that in the Days before TV they'd often set up a Reel-to-Reel tape recorder to record a radio show they'd otherwise miss, and then listen to it later. So "time shifting" is at least as old as reel-to-reel...
    • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:58AM (#31284364)

      How's that stack up against being a "Toaster Oven Geek"? Or "iPhone Geek"? Or "Honda Civic Geek"? Hell, I'm hungry, I think I'm going to go be a Peanut-Butter-and-Jelly-on-White-Bread-Geek.

      • by slim (1652) <john@hart n u p.net> on Friday February 26, 2010 @09:24AM (#31284666) Homepage

        To be fair, there's quite a TiVo hacking community. I think these people qualify as TiVo geeks:
          - Whoever worked out how to fit an Ethernet card in a Series 1 TiVo
          - Whoever worked out which bytes to poke in the encoder chip driver to enable it to record in the undocumented higher res Mode 0, without the distracting offset.
          - The authors of TiVoWeb - an open source web interface to TiVo scheduling etc.
          - The creators of the cachecard - an ethernet card with some on-board RAM, plus drivers which cause the TiVo to cache its program DB on there, for speed.

    • by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Friday February 26, 2010 @09:04AM (#31284440)
      one should learn about history

      History doesn't begin at the VCR, and I think your definition of timershifter is off. I would argue that if you're going to consider a VCR a timeshifter, then you should also consider the phonograph and the human memory cortex timeshifters as well. I'm pretty sure that "recording device" is not the same thing as "timeshifter". A timeshifter allows you to view a stream of data at a point in time other than what it is also simultaneously chronicling. View and Chronicle are separate timelines. This is impossible with a VCR. It could probably be achieved with a complicated array of VCRs, but that invention does not exist.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        >>>should also consider the phonograph and the human memory cortex timeshifters as well.

        The term "timeshifting" was invented with the VCR (another popular term was tape-delayed), because it allowed people to make their own schedules, rather than being shackled to the TV Guide. I know with my VCR I almost never watch anything live - it tapes at night and I "timeshift" to the next afternoon when I get home from work.

        The photograph was typically called by 1800s observers as "capturing time" because i

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Aidtopia (667351)

        I'm pretty sure that "recording device" is not the same thing as "timeshifter". A timeshifter allows you to view a stream of data at a point in time other than what it is also simultaneously chronicling.

        It's true that what a DVR does is different than what you could do with a VCR, but what you can do with a VCR is properly called time shifting [wikipedia.org]. In fact, that term became popular during the Betamax case. It was determined that "time shifting" was a legal use of VCRs, and since VCRs had legal uses, they coul

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I very seldom record and watch later using my HD Tivo, but do a lot of watching streams and my dvds on my HD Tivo. PyTivo works great to let you send your vob files to the Tivo but I also use Galleon, Streambaby and hme-vlc. Series 1 tivo were great in their time because they were so easily hacked. It seemed like Tivo wanted their users to hack their Tivos because many added and beta tested new features to their Tivos, many of the added features even got incorporated into Tivo. However, as time went on the

  • Simple reason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:16AM (#31283944)

    Tivo: $250 up-front + $7 / mo CableCard rental + $15 / mo Tivo Subscription fee
    vs.
    Cable: $15 / mo for something that works for most people.

    (...and if your Tivo breaks, you get to buy another one.)

    • Re:Simple reason (Score:4, Informative)

      by Enry (630) <enry&wayga,net> on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:27AM (#31284048) Journal

      With Comcast, the CableCard was free, and I'm paying $4.95 for my CC with FIOS. As for the monthly fees, they're about $8/mo if you pre pay for 3 years. In addition, there's built in access to Netflix, Amazon, Youtube, etc.

      As for the Cable-provided set top boxes, yuck. None have the flexibility of what the Tivo can do, including the ability to transfer some shows to your PC. Not much access to anything outside what the Cable provider decides you should have, which is usually the on demand stuff and..uhm..that's it.

      My Tivo HD is almost 3 years old and it's working well so far (well enough I'm considering upgrading the internal disk). I'm looking forward to the next box to see what its capabilities are.

      • Re:Simple reason (Score:4, Informative)

        by DougWebb (178910) on Friday February 26, 2010 @09:06AM (#31284468) Homepage

        As for the Cable-provided set top boxes, yuck. None have the flexibility of what the Tivo can do, including the ability to transfer some shows to your PC. Not much access to anything outside what the Cable provider decides you should have, which is usually the on demand stuff and..uhm..that's it.

        I've got one more, which was the final straw for me before I switched to TiVo: the Comcast-provided box had such poor quality Comcast-provided software that it crashed all of the time, wiping out both my existing recordings and all of my schedules. A DVR is really not worth very much if it can only be reliably used to pause live TV.

    • by soup4you2 (571216)
      When I purchased my TiVo i was given the option for the lifetime service. It was somewhere around $300 however it has paid for it's self in savings of not having to pay for the cable company's DVR capabilities. I love my TiVo box now, and the fact that I don't have any extra monthly bills makes it even better. 2 cable cards is still cheaper than 1 HD box rental. and I'm not really missing the on-demand. I have Netflix for that.
    • You forgot ... TV Video card for your computer: Around $20-$100 and no monthly fee. Software to use Video card -- $0 to $100 and no monthly fee While it may not be the reason for most people, that's why I don't have a Tivo. I did spend the $100 for software just because I was too lazy to setup the free stuff.
      • by Sporkinum (655143)

        Same here. Paid $250 for a refurb system that came with a dual tuner card and remote, and vista media center. Spent another $60 for a dedicated 320 GB drive for media center. No rental, no fees, and it's trivial to control with the xbox or copy shows to my mp3 player. That worked for me, but the real reason as I see it, is that they charge a large fee for tv listings.

    • Re:Simple reason (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Struct (660658) on Friday February 26, 2010 @09:02AM (#31284404)

      The cost is the primary reason I don't have a Tivo anymore. When we bumped up to HD, the HD Tivo was something like $800, so we just went with TWC's DVR. I'm on the verge of going back to Tivo, though, because the box from TW is probably about the most useless pile of electronics you can possibly assemble and still legally refer to as a DVR. It sometimes just fails to record, and probably 4 out of 5 times, fast-forwarding or rewinding will desync the audio. Tivo was expensive, but it never had rookie problems like that.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Andy Dodd (701)

        "and probably 4 out of 5 times, fast-forwarding or rewinding will desync the audio"
        Sorry to say it, but an HD TiVo might not improve anything there.

        Why? Because just like the TW box, the HD TiVos directly record the digital transport stream rather than encode the analog video signal in realtime. The streams themselves are broken from TW, not the playback/recording device. (Some worse than others - TWC's re-feed of CBS in my area is AWFUL. I have to perform a lossless transcode of every CBS recording in

    • by toleraen (831634)
      Exactly this. I would really like to get rid of my piece of crap Comcast DVR, but TiVo doesn't have enough value add for the cost right now. If TiVo lowered their monthly fee to $5 I'd probably jump on board though.
  • by Slippery Pete (941650) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:17AM (#31283960)
    For me, I never got a Tivo because of the cost. You need to purchase the equipment and then pay a monthly fee. I believe it is $12.95/month now. I already pay $80/month for cable and Internet access, $50/month for phone, add on heat, electricity and rent and I'm already down a paycheck. I have a DVR at home built with leftover parts and a $40 tuner card that works just fine. I can also move those files between my laptop and any other computer, so I can take my recorded shows anywhere.
    • by berwiki (989827)
      i would mod you up if i could.

      others above you touched on it, but either listed goofy equations with strange numbers (15/mo cable?? where is that deal), or didnt cover the entire issue.

      If I purchase a 200 dollar box, I better be done shelling out cash for the thing.
      • by Binestar (28861)
        As posted many times, don't think of it as a $200 box. Thing of that as the subsidized price. You buy for $200 and you're locked into a contract for $12/month. Or you can own your Tivo for $600. (Lifetime sub is $400.) Friend of mine insists on changing his phone every 2 years when the "free" phone becomes available from Verizon. I try to explain to him he would be better off just buying a phone directly and not getting locked into a contract but he won't hear it. That's what the $200 Tivo is. A Tivo
        • by berwiki (989827)
          I was actually going to say they should subsidize the 200 dollars, since you need a monthly subscription anyway.

          I mean comeon, the thing is a hard drive + some simple software. 600 bucks when mass-produced seems terribly overpriced.
    • by unitron (5733)

      I have a DVR at home built with leftover parts and a $40 tuner card that works just fine. I can also move those files between my laptop and any other computer, so I can take my recorded shows anywhere.

      Can you watch those shows on an actual television set without having to use that set as the computer's video display?

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        > Can you watch those shows on an actual television set without having to use that set as the computer's video display?

        Why should it matter? A real Tivo is nothing more than a specialized PC. That is
        the essential bit of understanding that you gain from knowing what's actually
        going on with the technology (and not being impressed by Tivo's bogus patents).

        Tivos even run Linux. I can run Linux myself.

        You can now buy a $200 PC with HDTV outputs and dedicated video playback hardware. You
        can either make a full

  • Monthly Fee (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JD-1027 (726234) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:17AM (#31283962)
    I never bought one because of the monthly fee. I would buy one immediately if there was no monthly fee. I assume there is still a monthly fee, correct?

    There is absolutely no reason to have a monthly fee on this piece of hardware. I understand there is a minor "service" they provide in getting schedules and being able to set up recording through an internet page, but in no way does that constitute the size of the monthly fee I remember seeing.

    Also, I believe the device stopped working after you stopped paying the monthly fee. What? Why can't it work like an old-school VCR at that point where you have to manually program when it should record?

    Please correct me if my history is off, or things have changed. I'd take a serious look at a TiVo if things are now different.
    • by Binestar (28861)

      You can get lifetime subscription (The box, not you) for $400, so tack that $400 onto the price of the Tivo and see if it is worth it. As a previous Tivo owner I was given $100 off a new Tivo and as a previous lifetime subscriber I was given $100 off the lifetime sub. Even with that deal it was $700 for my Tivo HD XL. A purchase that to me at least is well well worth it.

      As for the monthly fee for the cable card, I was being charged more to rent an HD box from Time Warner, so my cable price went down slig

    • They used to offer a lifetime subscription, but it was very expensive. I considered getting a TiVo when they were new, but at the time I was paying £5/year to a service that provided TV listing and a nice app for setting alarms and filtering them. It also had a scripting interface, so instead I just popped an ATi All-in-Wonder card into a machine and wrote a (trivial) script to make it record things from the TV card. You could set it to record all programs with a given name, or matching other condi

      • by Binestar (28861)
        They offer lifetime again for $400. Equal to just over 2 years of cable DVR service.
    • by natehoy (1608657)

      I bought a ReplayTV (competitor to TiVo, same basic idea) about 6 years ago, and paid $200 for the "lifetime service". Like TiVO, with a ReplayTV, once the listings stop being fed to the machine it cannot record anything - you can't just do time/day based recording. The monthly service was something like $15, so I figured I might as well "prepay" for 14 months of service and get lifetime service that way.

      The overall machine cost $400 with the lifetime service, and 6 years and counting and the machine is w

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Also, I believe the device stopped working after you stopped paying the monthly fee. What? Why can't it work like an old-school VCR at that point where you have to manually program when it should record?

      Because the people making them are greedy bastards. The corporate world wants a monthly fee for everything these days, even when they provide no services. You're far better off building a Myth TV.

    • I never bought one because of the monthly fee. I would buy one immediately if there was no monthly fee.

      My thoughts exactly. I kept waiting for someone to sell a DVR that I could hook up to my cable and record what and when I decided to record without having to pay a monthly fee for it to record things according to when they are scheduled. That's all I want, a DVR that works the way that VCRs work. I tell it what channel and what time to record and it does so. I can understand that there is a market for the service, I'm not it. I suspect that there are a lot of people like me, if they could just buy a DVR tha

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I have two such machines. Panasonic, its DVD writer broke. Bought a Phillips. That too can do time/date based recording. It is a pain in the neck to program, and the user interface sucks. But I have been using it for the last 4 years. Panasonic makes it very easy to mark "chapters" as you are watching. I mark interesting jokes from Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, Colbert. I also record the disaster shows and such from Discovery/History channel, mark all the ads and delete them. Then I burn them into DVDs. I have som
    • by slim (1652)

      Also, I believe the device stopped working after you stopped paying the monthly fee. What? Why can't it work like an old-school VCR at that point where you have to manually program when it should record?

      You can do exactly that.

      I prefer to pay for the EPG data, so I don't have to look up times, and I get recommendations, season passes etc.

  • Lousy marketing? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by petes_PoV (912422) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:18AM (#31283966)
    The world of gadgets is full of technically superior products that failed. Tivo's just another example. Some had a good idea and bad implementation. Others had poor reliability or couldn't deliver product to the customer. From where I see it, Tivo's just another DVR (though to be fair, I've never actually seen a tivo in the flesh - maybe that says' something about their reach outside the world of geeky-dom) and has to complete with all the new products that are better / faster / cheaper / prettier.

    File away with 8-track, betamax and video disks

    • Re:Lousy marketing? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SQLGuru (980662) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:39AM (#31284166) Journal

      I had DirecTiVo for a while (DirecTV and TiVo had a joint product) and now I have Dish Network's product. Comparing the two, TiVo is really the much better DVR software. They have features that the others don't (and can't until patents expire in probably 10 more years). One of the ones that I miss is the Suggestions (aka keep my harddrive full) that will record shows during "down" time that match types and styles of shows you already record -- it's great when your normal shows aren't recording because of special events like The Winter Olympics. I never had an issue with shows recording multiple times (only record new, but the satellite picks up locals and shows them on 3 feeds [HD, local channel number, and 8000 channel number] so the DVR records the new episode on all three feeds because it's my highest ranked show). The TiVo interface is easier and better with groupings of shows into folders instead of just a list of everything recorded. All-in-all, the TiVo *IS* the best DVR available.

      Other than DirecTiVo, there hasn't really been a single device that allowed you to have satellite and TiVo at the same time. Sure, the newer TiVo's have cablecard support, but it's not easy to get cablecards. The TiVo trying to operate the other box isn't the greatest solution either. Especially when your DVR is capable of recording multiple feeds (mine will record two satellite feeds plus OTA digital). The early TiVo's with analog cable were an easy implementation, but now that cable has gone digital, it's harder to have a TiVo.....but you wind up paying extra for the priviledge and in today's economy, the DVR from the provider is "good enough" that the TiVo becomes and expense that you live without. It's better, but is it "better enough" to justify the extra expense?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Gr8Apes (679165)

        I had Dish for a long time. I still like their implementation. I tried Tivo (admittedly for a relatively short period) and currently have AT&Ts horrid u-Verse box that's about to be tossed out the door. I've also had TW's box that I would barely call beta.

        The thing I like least about the u-Verse and Tivo boxes are the auto recording features, especially when they bump the "older" recordings I actually cared about (Yes you can "lock" it on some systems). I personally dislike technology that thinks it's s

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      File away with 8-track, betamax and video disks

      Eight tracks don't belong in your list. They were in everybody's cars (except mine, I used cassettes) and most houses for over ten years. And they weren't technically superior, even though they had twice the transport speed of cassette. They had to switch tracks four times per album, and often this would have songs cut off in the middle. The tapes were bulky and unwieldy, and if a tape got "eaten" it was harder to repair than a casette.

      People finally realized t

    • Re:Lousy marketing? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Binestar (28861) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:49AM (#31284276) Homepage

      I'm not sure there is any DVR that is better than a Tivo. I say this as someone who has used MythTV, Tivo, and 3 different cable company's DVRs. When it comes right down to it, anyone can use Tivo. The cable company DVR's are not smart enough, MythTV (admittedly a long ass time ago) was hard to use and difficult to setup.

      As for faster, a Series 2 Tivo that is upgraded and starts to have a lot of things on the drive can be a bit slot responding to the remote. This is no longer true with my series 3 HD XL. The speed is great no matter if the drive has 300 items recorded.

      Cheaper: yes and no. the $700 price tag I paid for my upgrade ($900 for someone without a previous Tivo to get a discount) is the top of the line Tivo with lifetime service. My last Tivo was $300 and $250 for the lifetime subscription (Yes, I got it that long ago). It is still going strong at my brothers house (I sold it to him for $200 to help me pay for my new Tivo). Even ignoring the $200 I got from selling it, I got it August of 2002. 90 months divided by $550 = $6/month. Well under the Cable company price for a DVR. I did upgrade the hard drive in the Tivo with 2 160GB drives part way through it's life. Both were taken out of service from PC upgrades, but figure an average hard drive price of $100 that gets you up to $750, or $8.33/month. I unfortunately do not know how they fare against each other in power usage, so I honestly can't add in the possible differences between those.

      In order for my new $700 Tivo to be more economical than the cable company offering (And assuming I will be tossing a 2GB external drive on it to expand it Figure $100 for the drive, $30 for the enclosure I already have that I plan on using and that makes it $830. 55 months to be same price as the cable DVR. Just over 4 and a half years.

      It is a gamble that it will last that long, but if I win that gamble it is just savings at that point.

      As for looks, I've not seen a DVR interface that is prettier than Tivo. Would love for someone to show me. It really *IS* as good as Tivo fans make it out to be.

  • No Tivo for me (Score:3, Informative)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:19AM (#31283976)

    >> I wanted to find out why TiVo hasn't been more successful

    I'm very happy with my Mythtv box. It does way more than a Tivo does, I can customise it, and it has no monthly fees. (Although I do subscribe to Schedules Direct for listings, but that's only $20 per year ).

    • by DougWebb (178910)

      I loved my MythTV box too, but switched to TiVo when Comcast started moving digital channels around so often that the listings were always coming out wrong, and when it became clear that the analog channels were going away. At least TiVo with cablecards can follow the changes. Comcast still made it very difficult to get the cards; when I called for an installation they said I had to go to my local office to pick it up, and when I went to my local office they looked at me like I had two heads and said they'v

    • Re:No Tivo for me (Score:4, Insightful)

      by itsdapead (734413) on Friday February 26, 2010 @09:31AM (#31284746)

      I love MythTV but, lets be honest, setting it up was a week's worth of intensive nerding...

      While its quite friendly in day-to-day use and has really cool features (e.g. MythWeb, multiple front ends...) it all goes a bit pear shaped when it comes to configuration.

      Tuning, in particular is a major hassle (thats in the UK with digital terrestrial - your mileage may vary). Partly, of course, that's because it supports so many standards and hardware alternatives.

  • by langelgjm (860756) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:20AM (#31283984) Journal

    As long as cable box manufacturers are selling boxes to cable companies, instead of to consumers, I'm not sure how things will get better. I guess this is a difference between the "end-to-end" model of the Internet and other networks such as the cable network.

    Everyone I have discussed CableCards with has basically come to the same conclusion: the cable companies wanted it to fail. I think this stems from their desire to keep control out of the hands of consumers; anything that breaks that principle must be marginalized as much as possible. You see the same deal with locked handsets from the mobile phone companies... they take a perfectly decent piece of hardware, flash their shitty branded firmware on it that actually disables features built in to the phone, then try to sell those features back to you (or in my case, don't offer them).

    • I completely agree. I have a TiVo HD, and continue to use and enjoy it... but the problem is that I still have to deal with my cable company. I had to pester them for 2 months to get a CableCard out of 'em, and they still charge me $4 a month to rent it.

      There's just something ridiculous about paying for information delivery, only to be charged even more money to decode the proprietary signal they send to you.

      Before the TiVo, we had analog-only cable, and a Philips stand-alone DVR/DVD burner that worked just

    • That's what you get when your markets aren't competitive, so there's no reason for them to embrace new things. Sky, our big satellite TV operator, started agressively pitching a branded PVR system called "Sky Plus" about five years ago, as a selling point versus the entrenched cable companies. Time passes, the idea's lodged on the public mind, and now PVRs are a ubiquitous option when you sign up for a TV service, mandatory with an HDTV service, whether it's through satellite or cable, and there's a concert

      • by langelgjm (860756)

        Yeah, that's actually what I started to type in my subject line... "Why are markets in the US so screwed up" etc.

        But really, Comcast and Verizon FiOS do offer DVR services now that consumers seem to like. But it's not a competitive market in the sense that you can go buy any DVR you want, like you could with VCRs.

        Besides, after using MythTV it's really hard to go back to branded, crappy company-provided DVRs.

    • You are absolutely correct. Of course if TiVo (or somebody else) had sold a DVR that just recorded what people told it to with no monthly fee, the public's demand for the ability to hook it up outside of the cable company's control would have been greater as well. What difference does it make who I pay the monthly fee to?
      Another point is that the cable companies' attitude is/was shortsighted. By making it harder for people to obtain timeshifting technology, they accelerated the move to watching video over
  • by ThisIsAnonymous (1146121) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:30AM (#31284076)
    What?

    Yet, despite being well-loved and despite having been around longer than the Apple iPod, TiVo comes nowhere close to the iPod/iPhone's success. Apple sells more iPod and iPhone products in a single quarter than TiVo has sold in the entire lifetime of the company.

    Why are you even comparing TiVo to the iPod. Why should it come close to the iPod/iPhone's success? They aren't competing products...Are you saying that a product is only successful if it sells the same number of units as an iPod or is as popular as an iPhone?

    • Apples and Oranges (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mdwh2 (535323)

      I agree entirely - these are different markets, how is this comparison irrelvant? Were they just slow for today's obligitary daily Iphone mention?

      One might as well say that the TiVo doesn't sell as much as Nokia, or Microsoft (both of whom have shipped far more than Apple - indeed, can we have an article on how Apple don't sell as many phones as most other phone companies, or how Macs don't sell as much as Windows PCs? Of course that would be viewed as flamebait...)

      Lumping the Iphone with the Ipod also make

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:31AM (#31284086) Journal
    The trouble is that, as a basic technical task, doing what a Tivo does isn't rocket surgery(particularly now that more broadcasts and cable transmissions are already being transmitted in a nice compressed digital format, and computing power gets ever cheaper. Tivo still wins over the competition in terms of having a UI and attention to quality that isn't utter crap, unlike most of the cable-bundled boxes; but, because of the technical workings of cable, that doesn't really help them enough.

    With computers, there is room for the "more expensive but better user experience/interface" option, because all a computer has to do to interact with the internet is speak a few common networking protocols. Even if your ISP has never heard of mac or linux or whatever, that just means that their phone drones won't help you configure.

    With cable, the cable companies rule with an iron fist, and have (largely successfully) resisted any efforts to change that. Cablecard is a clusterfuck. One can only assume that it was intended to fail(or, at least, those who wanted it to fail assigned it a task so difficult that no good faith implementation could possibly work properly). This gives first-party boxes a huge advantage over Tivos in all but cases of serious enthusiasts.
    • by dingen (958134)

      rocket surgery

      I see the US health care system is in worse shape than I thought.

  • In South Africa I had digital satelite TV which had about 70 channels. Later they came out with a DVR with time shifting. After moving to the Netherlands I expected a way-better service (being "1st world") and everything. Not so: the UPC digital cable service was pretty much the same and in the same order of price. It also had about the same number of channels but there are many Dutch language channels that I don't watch. Major differences are the prevalence of sub-titles in the Dutch service on all English

  • The $300 investment plus the monthly fees is way too much. my Time Warner Cable DVR costs $12.95 a month. and i can upgrade anytime a new model hits their inventory every few years.

    TIVO didn't have any broadband support for years after it became popular. i had Vonage since 2003 and couldn't get TIVO because supposedly it didn't work.

    my Time Warner DVR isn't the greatest and the new software upgrade last year sucks and is slow as molasses, but its still enough to keep me from spending $300 on a TIVO. and my

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CharlieHedlin (102121)

      There were ways to connect the TiVo via broadband back then, they needed to make it supported, but it was as simple as plugging in an Ethernet adapter and putting codes in the dialing prefix.

      Expense is another part, it has always been way more expensive to use TiVo than the cable company. TiVo should have focused on cost reduction more, without making it a light service. They probably could have indroduced ads earlier (Your cable company depends on ads) to make it cost competitive, but they were busy tryi

  • Why would you even think to lead your submission with a comparison between TiVo and the iPod/iPhone. If you want to compare TiVo to an Apple product, how about the set-top box Apple TV. Or compare it to the Sling Box, or to a Windows Media PC, or MythTV, or something else serves an even remotely similar function to TiVo. Different markets perform differently.
    • by mdwh2 (535323)

      Indeed. It comes across as a rather poor attempt to make the Iphones's sales look good, by comparing them to a produce that's seen as popular, but with smaller sales, yet is in a completely different market.

      Let's compare the Tivo to other DVRs. And let's compare the Iphones to other phones - which sells small amounts compared to Nokia, LG, Motorola, Samsung.

  • HD TiVo review... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Michael Kristopeit (1751814) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:38AM (#31284156)
    i have the HD tivo, and i move every 4 months... getting the cablecard from the cable company and getting it installed is always a GIANT headache, usually having to deal with comcast customer service that pretends they have never heard of a tivo or cablecard...BUT, after it's set up and working.... nothing beats it. dual HD tuners, that can record while you are downloading web content simultaneously, with high quality netflix streaming, a giant hard drive with eSATA to seamlessly attach any 3rd party hard drive for additional storage... it's a dream and 100% wife approved, but if she had to figure it all out and convince comcast that she really did know what she was talking about, she would never get it set up. it is most certainly a cable company conspiracy. i enjoy my chats with all the cable installer guys as i ask them to justify the cablecard which is just a glorified hardware password... eventually i can get them all to admit that it's just about renting you another piece of hardware. i'm always charged a monthly fee to rent my multistream cablecard... without the cablecard the digital service has no value, and subscribers can not use their own cablecards, so i don't understand how it's legal to sell the service and require the hardware rental as a separate fee... also, the channel lineups available are a giant mess requiring much effort to remove duplicates... can't really fault tivo for that... more conspiracy. i'm just wondering if the set top boxes distributed by comcast also contain 5 copies of most network channels.
  • TiVo *MUST* get back with DirecTV ASAP. TFA mentions it, but the reunion of DirecTV and TiVo (with HD) is what I'm waiting for, and why I've stayed with DirecTV without even considering other services. I've tried other DVRs, and compared to TiVo, they uniformly suck. Couple TiVo with the direct recording of the digital stream... and you've got nearly the perfect combination in terms of user interface and picture quality. I was going to stick with my old tube TV and Standard Def DirecTiVo, but a lightning
    • by natehoy (1608657)

      DirectTV just bought out ReplayTV, who makes a decent DVR (or used to). I doubt they'll be snuggling back up with TiVo anytime soon.

  • Come on, really? Tivo is losing subscribers for a few reasons: 1) Cable companies now offer their own DVRs -- Tivo used to be the only game in town 2) You don't have to buy a new DVR if your cable company's DVR fails; you just trade in your old one -- with Tivo...if it's outside the warranty period you have to buy a new one (yes, I know the cable company charges you a monthly rental fee) 3) Cable companies don't charge anything for the privilege of recording onto a DVR (Tivo makes you buy the box AND
  • Massively broadcasting a show to everyone at a specific time and having a large number of them set up a machine to record that show to watch later is dumb. Hosting the same show on a server and having everyone download it (or stream it) and watch it whenever they feel like makes sense.

  • TiVo didn't invent the DVR, they were simply the first company with a successful consumer product. And they were successful just because prices had come down so much.

    And it's a dying and obsolete product category anyway.

    • by slim (1652)

      I don't recall a retail product before TiVo's. They had to invent their own filesystem in order to stream video fast enough using the hardware available at the time, so they certainly invested in innovation -- just to be a couple of years ahead of what inevitably would become possible with a normal FS on standard hardware.

  • by Telephone Sanitizer (989116) on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:54AM (#31284310)

    My LiteOn PVR has a simple timer for recording like a VCR.

    It has user-replaceable parts.

    It doesn't require a paid subscription.

    LiteOn doesn't sell records of my viewing habits.

    It hasn't got a partition allocated for ads.

    It doesn't display ad-banners when I pause or fast forward.

    It has editing features.

    It has a built-in DVD burner.

    Yeah, TiVo offers a few neat features, but I'd have to give up a lot of utility and a great deal of privacy to get them. F-k that. My next PVR will be a computer with a Hauppauge tuner.

  • Sky + (Score:3, Interesting)

    by slim (1652) <john@hart n u p.net> on Friday February 26, 2010 @08:54AM (#31284320) Homepage

    My UK TiVo still has a little "As recommended by Sky" logo when it boots.

    But Sky (Rupert Murdoch's satellite TV service) now has its own DVR.

    It *really* annoys me when people coo about how clever their Sky+ is. "I can pause live TV! How awesome is that?", when TiVo had done it for years.

    OTOH now you can get cheap DVRs from all kinds of manufacturers, so nobody's all that impressed any more, there's a free market, and that's all for the best.

    I still think TiVo has the best UI over all.

  • The cable co killed tivo with there poor cable card system, SDV (for some time tivo where unable to get SDV channels) the lack of cable VOD, in some systems you where not able to get sports and event ppv on tivo. Also there are long list of people going though cable card hell to get there tivo working as well.

    TIVO needs a tru2way box that can go 2way and cable VOD but it needs to something big like 3-4 tuners and hope that the cable co don't hit tru2way users with DVR fees (yes tru2way forces cable co softw

  • than a VCR. Look I have a Tivo and find it difficult to watch TV with out it after having one. The thing is before I got one I really didn't understand how much of a difference it makes. The Tivo basically solves every issue I've ever had with time shifting on a VCR. But it's hard to really understand how much of a difference that makes when you're watching TV. After you have one for a couple of weeks you understand and you realize you almost always watch everything time shifted because it's so convenient b
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday February 26, 2010 @09:25AM (#31284676)

    I used to have a Tivo. I had two in fact, including my personal favorite DVR of all-time, the Humax Tivo (to my knowledge, the only stand-alone DVR to date that allows you to burn your recordings to DVD). Tivo had great features, one-of-a-kind abilities (like the aforementioned burning to DVD option), and the best user interface in the DVR business. There were some downsides (a lousy 30 minute recording queue, sluggish menu performance on some of the models, etc.). But for the most part it was *the* superior DVR.

    So why did I give it up? Two reasons: digital cable and HD. Tivo lagged way behind my cableco's native DVR on implementing both. Cablecards took a while to come out, and were buggy and a pain in the ass to install. Their HD models were expensive and, again, lagged behind my cableco. And when my cableco went to Switched Digital Video (SDV) even the cablecard stopped working for many of the newer HD channels. It just got tiring having to constantly wrestle with my cableco over my rogue DVR. It was a lot easier for me to just pay the $9 a month and get the cableco's native DVR (which is actually pretty good, though certainly no Tivo). That's probably what the cableco intended all along, I'm sure--but I'm not going to spend a fortune and put up with missing channels just to tell them to go to hell.

    Tivo's collapse as DVR leader can basically be traced to one thing: their failure to license their technology to or reach an agreement with the cable companies. Without the official support of the Time-Warners and Comcasts of the world, they've essentially condemned themselves to forever being the outsider in the digital TV world. So they will always lag behind with kludgy solutions like buggy cablecards and hit-or-miss SDV adapters (don't get me started on those things). And, even for a pretty dedicated videophile and TV addict like myself, the native cableco DVR is just too tempting an alternative.

  • by LordKazan (558383) on Friday February 26, 2010 @09:31AM (#31284752) Homepage Journal

    listings for mythTv from SchedulesDirect: $20 PER YEAR
    listings for Tivo: $16 PER MONTH.

    No reason for guide data for tivo to cost so frakking much. And then there is the idea they think that if you hack your box - YOUR BOX, you bought it - to get listings somewhere else that you are stealing service from them.

    No, getting listings from them without paying would be theft of services. Getting your listings from somewhere else is not.

    TiVo is run by a bunch of corporate farkwads.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ChrisMaple (607946)
      TIVO has to get their money somehow. They've never been much of a financial success, so somewhere they must be bleeding money in an inexcusable manner. In the end, this must be incompetence at the top. I see this more of a problem of failing to run the company properly than greed.
  • by doug141 (863552) on Friday February 26, 2010 @10:30AM (#31285398)

    Tivo's monthly fee of about $10 is NOT saved by re-purposing an old computer into a DVR, because the old computer eats almost that much power every month (assuming 40 watts for a tivo and 200 watts for a computer, running 24/7).

    Some people are saying "vs $15 for cable" and confusing people... they may mean $15 per month for a cable company DVR. OR, depending on context, they may also mean BASIC cable, which is sometimes given a different name by the cable company so the cable company can name their $50/month package "Basic," and thus sell it to callers who assume "Basic" means "cheapest." Cable companies are regulated and have to offer a service (they don't have to call it "basic") that is just the broadcast stations and local access for a regulated rate, about $15.

  • by swb (14022) on Friday February 26, 2010 @10:52AM (#31285668)

    Disclaimer: I own 3 Tivos; a Series 2 standalone bought in 2002 that's going strong (albeit soon to be nearly obsoleted by Comcast's digital conversion), and two HD Tivos. It will be a sad day when I have to replace them with POS cable products or some Frankenstein

    IMHO, what's hurt Tivo has been a couple of things. One is painfully slow technology refresh.

    When I bought my Series 2 in 2002, most digital cable channels (HBO, Encore, etc) offered DD 5.1 audio on most or all programs. The Series 2 had no digital audio interface but even by 2002 standards should have been able to handle digital audio. It wasn't until the release of the Series 3 some 3? 4? years later, which required a CableCard (and thus the delay for CableCard) before digital audio was available.

    What should have happened is a new unit (Series 2.5?) issued with digital audio capabilities to bridge that gap. HD would have still been an issue, but HD boxes would downcovert and we could have had digital audio. Other hardware items they should have been more aggressive about include external storage and DVD burning. They had a burner model but it was too little, too late.

    Tivo also blew it on "open access" advocacy.

    They should have made a lot more noise about CableCard and breaking the cable company digital encoding stranglehold. A much more public advocacy that made it plain that cable companies are really only interested in monopolies and bullshit upcharges for throwaway hardware paid for 10x over by rental fees.

    PC integration has also been lame and crippled. Tivo 2 Go should have used TivoDesktop to generate burn-ready DVD ISOs and not required third party software or bullshit copy protection.

    I still love my Tivos for what they do with elegance, simplicity and reliability, but wholly agree they just can't really get it together.

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