View Full Version : The future of Tivo?

04-26-2008, 10:00 AM
As a general topic of conversation, I'm curious to hear what other people's thoughts are concerning what their Tivo means to them, particularly from those folks who are "old hats" on this forum (so to speak). Has your interest in Tivo dropped over the last couple of years, or have the innovations/ developments to-date been sufficient to keep you on-board? Is your Tivo what it used to be? I'm curious to know, as I seem to have lost the mo-jo for my TiVo. And while my interest in Tivo has grown cold, it has been replaced by the allure of HTPC.

Presently, I maintain a Tivo sub, but for how long, I'm not sure. Instead, my focus has shifted to work on my HTPC. While all HTPC's suffer from their own faults and limitations, the possibilities seem far greater, and I wonder if others would agree with the suggestion that HTPC's are more likely the way of the future (at least in the long term). In this regard, Tivo's partnership with Nero to expand into the HTPC market is interesting, to say the least, and I wonder if they're thinking this way also (btw, has anyone heard news about development - all seems to have gone quiet since their media release last November?). For the masses, Microsoft's MCE/VMC leaves much to be desired, and none of the many alternatives have yet become mainstream. If Tivo isn't already too far behind, they could most definitely compete.

With the HD capture device from Hauppauge about to start shipping soon, decent alternatives to Tivo (that have a potential for far greater customizations and functionality) should soon be a reality. Which leaves me wondering about the future of Tivo...

04-26-2008, 10:27 AM
This is an interesting question.

I have friends who had build their own HTPC several years ago. I have other friends who are happy with the DVR built into their cable / satellite provider.

Personally I think TiVo has a lot of quality advantages that I can appreciate becuase I have both the provider DVR and a TiVo. The DVR always has given me trouble and I have had to replace the HD in it a couple of times. TiVo on the other hand is like the energizer bunny (keeps going and going).

Overall the market is getting more and more fragmented. For an average joe going with the providers DVR is the simplest option: free to buy, nothing to setup and cheap to operate (only $5 or $6 per month). (Note: you get what you pay for). This will make life tough for TiVo. Only serious TiVo fans would shell out hundreds of dollars for a HD TiVo when there is a free alternative.

My 2c worth.

04-28-2008, 07:45 AM
I currently have two S3 Tivos and an HTPC with six ATSC tuners. I use the HTPC for recording my local OTA HD channels and playing back DVD, HD-DVD, and Blu-Ray rips that are stored on an unRAID server. The two S3 Tivos are used for recording encrypted programming from my FIOS TV connection. I looked at the Verizon Motorola QIP6416 HD DVRs but they were far too limited for my use. They only came with 160GB hard drives and only had one IR codeset, making it extremely difficult to operate more than one of them in the same room without interference. The monthly cost to operate bot S3 Tivos, including the Tivo service and cablecard fees, is considerably less than what Verizon would charge me for two of the Motorola boxes. Getting the S3 Tivos was the easiest choice I ever had to make.

Interest in Tivos has a great deal to do with what you expect out of it. If you just want it to record and playback your TV shows then pretty much any DVR will suit your needs. Tivos are unique in that they are the only commercially available DVR that can be hacked extensively by the consumer. The only hacks that can be performed on other DVRs is adding a larger hard drive, and even that's limited to only a handful of models.

There's a thread over at dbstalk where former HDTivo owners are bashing it left and right and singing the praises of the HR20/HR21 DVRs, which is sort of ironic considering these folks were doing just the oppposite only six months ago. It's quite apparent that this crowd is only interested in making sure that the latest episode of "Survivor" is recorded and not in the fact that that's about all they can do with their DVR.

Don't expect HTPCs to replace Tivos or any other DVRs in the forseeable future. An HTPC is not a plug and play device and requires a lot of fine tuning to get it working correctly so Joe Consumer isn't likely going to be willing to take the plunge if it involves too much time and effort. It's pretty much a hobbyists' toy at this point. Both nVIDIA and ATi aren't anywhere near close enough to getting their graphics drivers right yet they keep introducing new video cards almost on a weekly basis. The good news is that many new motherboards have built-in graphics chipsets that are capable of HD playback and digital audio output via HDMI 1.3 connections. Add a tuner and you've got a dirt cheap HTPC with HD PVR capability. Better yet, throw in a Blu-Ray reader with PowerDVD Ultra and you'll be in hog heaven.

Cablecard HTPCs are currently only available as turnkey units so if you want to upgrade your existing HTPC you have to buy a whole new PC. Considering the fact that some hardware only works with XP and others only with Vista, it just adds more confusion to the mix. BTW, if anyone is looking for a comprehensive list of HTPC hardware, check out the sticky thread in the Home Theater Computer section at the AVS Forums. It's the best list I've seen anywhere.

I believe the new DirecTV add-on tuner module was unveiled at this year's CES but there's no telling when it will be released to the public. I don't know the details behind the design but I'd be willing to bet that the box contains encryption and decryption hardware so you can't pull anything off the hard drive for burning to DVD.

04-28-2008, 01:51 PM
for me, it's all about the content. only directv can give me what i want (no, i didn't get paid for that :)) - many specialized hd channels (science, history, discovery, speed, spike etc.) plus nhl center ice. my cable co. offerings are a joke by comparison.

while an htpc appeals to my techie nature, it doesn't help much because we don't record a lot of ota kind of stuff. where i *would* like it would be playing back stuff i've gotten from internet sources e.g. bittorrent. just don't know if it's worth the investment right now. csi is about the only thing we record ota on a regular basis.


04-28-2008, 02:53 PM
My interest was waning in my HR10-250, but turns out that's more to do with the limited features DirecTV allowed. I ditched them and went with a S3 with cable cards and haven't regretted it at all. I love my tivo again, and I didn't even need to hack it this time. :o

04-28-2008, 05:03 PM
I think both availability of HD content and PVR user experience matter.

When the hr10-250 came out, there was no optical HD content to be had, and the hr10-250 was the only pvr that could be readily hacked to strip DRM. The tivo user experience was clearly the best of class as well. The choice was easy if you were interested in HD.

Now, tivo has let the competing pvrs largely catch up in reliability & user experience, and there is also optical HD content whose DRM is trivially defeated by end users.

When the s3 tivo came out, I was happy to switch to it as cable-co rollout of HD was ahead of directv, but that's recently turned around. At this point my local cable-co is really compromising the HD content (by recompressing 3 HD channels into 1 slot) in the process of trying to keep up with satellite HD rollout.

Regarding HTPC solutions, being able to record OTA is only 1 piece of the HD puzzle; it's hardly fair to think of it as a comparable solution to an HD tivo without the ability to record premium content in HD. (Some of us don't even have good OTA reception anyways.) OCUR systems add premium content recording ability but this comes with the buggy vista media center experience. It's still a work in progress feature-wise as well: the trusted path for HD-audio has not even been ironed out for HTPCs yet. Claims about HTPCs with HDMI 1.3 audio are misleading - you won't get dolby truehd without downsampling for example (due to lack of trusted path).

Here's hoping that directv's hdpc-20 comes out this year and works well. The user experience on a windows HTPC is still worse than tivo, but microsoft may have addressed some more of that with the fiji media center release (which the hdpc-20 will reportedly use). Being based upon a general purpose pc, the DRM is in theory as hackable as tivoapp. I assume the hdpc-20 will use DVRMS files like cablecard media center systems do. Step 1 would be to defeat the encryption added to the dvr-ms recordings. I wonder if anyone has done that for OCUR cablecard systems yet...

So basically yes, tivo has become a lot less important, and unless they raise the bar (add HD satellite support, mpeg4, blu-ray, extenders, etc), HTPCs or even satellite pvrs look to be poised to overtake them.

04-29-2008, 08:00 AM
It's pretty clear that Tivo is becoming more of a type of device and no longer just a brand name (i.e., Xerox and Kleenex come to mind for product recognition). Nearly all TV providers have their own flavor of DVR and Tivo is scrambling around trying to find a niche to fill. Getting dumped by DirecTV was a serious blow to them and seriously put a damper on their future. It doesn't appear like they'll be getting back into bed with any satellite provider unless they can come up with some proprietary feature that the satellite providers can't imitate in their own DVRs. Even then It's very unlikely that DirecTV would ever rekindle that relationship and Dish would be the last provider you'd ever expect to hookup with Tivo, especially since their own DVRs have matured considerably.

Digital cable and OTA reception seems to be the niche Tivo was looking for. With the impending demise of analog TV, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Tivo develop a non-HD digital box for OTA reception. There are lots of people that still have analog TVs that are going to need a digital converter if they want to keep getting free standard definition TV reception. Having a box that can also record might be appealing to these folks.

04-29-2008, 03:43 PM
With the impending demise of analog TV, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Tivo develop a non-HD digital box for OTA reception. There are lots of people that still have analog TVs that are going to need a digital converter if they want to keep getting free standard definition TV reception. Having a box that can also record might be appealing to these folks.
Indeed. That would be really smart. They'd better do it fast though, time is running out! If they make it with only analog outputs they could even qualify for the $40 government vouchers, allowing them to bring it to consumers at a "lower cost". As a share holder, here's hoping they find success with something like this!

04-29-2008, 08:34 PM
I I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Tivo develop a non-HD digital box for OTA reception.I would be. I don't think this makes much business sense, even by tivo's standards. A low-def only box introduced in 2008 to tune an ATSC standard designed for HD? ... to provide a functionality (ota tuning) that consumers don't think they should have to pay for?