Ten years of TiVo: how far we haven't come
We’ll be completely trustworthy right here: we love TiVo. TiVo DVRs of each classic are scattered all through the Engadget editorial ranks, and Series3 models are our most popular hardware for HD Netflix streaming and Amazon’s nascent HD Video on Demand service. And, properly, utilizing a TiVo is simply enjoyable in a method that no different DVR ever is — these booping noises nonetheless provoke smiles throughout.
However this is the factor: it has been ten years since TiVo first launched the Philips-constructed HDR110 at NAB, and whereas the corporate’s identify has since turn into synonymous with time-shifted digital video recording, it isn’t as a result of its merchandise have achieved runaway success. Actually, it is the precise reverse: most shoppers select to get by with terrible cable- or satellite tv for pc-firm DVRs, and TiVo’s solely simply barely pulled a full yr of profitability, two elements which have stored it firmly on deathwatch since 2005. Not solely that, however whereas TiVo may need pushed the DVR into the mainstream, it hasn’t meaningfully innovated since — aside from HD output and the aforementioned streaming providers, you would be arduous-pressed to inform a model-new TiVo HD from an unique unit through the use of it for 5 minutes. Worse, the whole DVR class’s primarily remained stagnant as properly — one research discovered that the typical DVR-enabled household data simply 15-20 % of the TV they watch, a startlingly low quantity by any measure.
So look — it isn’t working, guys. We’re pleased that Comcast is now providing the TiVo interface in sure markets as a paid choice, and we’ll be happy as punch when these lengthy-promised new DirecTiVo models ship out, however the easy reality of the matter is TiVo cannot proceed to depend on the identical methods and concepts that have not labored for the previous ten years. What TiVo wants is a brand new plan — and we have got 5 easy concepts which may assist kickstart the corporate and the DVR marketplace for the subsequent ten years. Learn on for extra.
1. Embrace the pc inside
Positive, the DVR is meant to be an “equipment.” And there is nothing mistaken with letting issues function that approach typically. However in actuality you are delivery a customized Linux rig with devoted HD video hardware, Ethernet, and exterior storage help — the chances are infinite. It is nice that you’ve got constructed a YouTube implementation, however a primary browser with Flash video help ought to have been a part of the inventory set up for years now. The DVR that may additionally play Hulu with none hassles — prompt hit product. Native community streaming? It is nice that it is partially supported, however half-assed codec help does not reduce it anymore. Make your field play the whole lot, no questions requested. Individuals with TiVos should not be tempted by a media streamer ever once more.
The identical goes for getting video out and onto moveable units — you are being completely proven up by open-supply tasks like iTiVo and pyTiVo. TiVo Desktop Plus should not be an afterthought your clients should pay additional for — it must be the defining function of your product. Document a present, have it in your telephone the subsequent morning to observe on the practice — no cable firm can compete with that. Combine in just a little Slingbox-like placeshifting and gadget nerds can be beating down your door with $12.ninety five month-to-month subscription charges.
Cannot do it, the networks and cable corporations will not allow us to? Cease crying and level them within the path of any respectable Media Middle PC, which may do all of this and extra, and even do it with your interface. No excuses.2. Put slightly QWERTY within the peanut
The peanut distant is arguably one of the iconic items of house theater gear ever designed. It feels nice within the hand, it is intuitive, and it is highly effective. It is also extremely out of date. What are all these quantity buttons for? Why is there nonetheless a change to pick between two DVRs? Why cannot it management different A/V gear in addition to a $25 common can? Why is 30-second skip nonetheless a hidden command? Most significantly, why is utilizing it to enter in search phrases such a horrible ache within the ass?
If you are going to be critical about video on demand and your new search interface, you have to make textual content enter approach simpler. This is not rocket science — simply take a cue from the smartphone market and construct a slider QWERTY peanut with a pleasant, stripped-down prime format. Not solely will you could have as soon as once more set a regular in distant design for a decade, you will have made YouTube on TiVo one thing aside from a painful strategy to torture celebration friends with bloopy sounds.three. Replace the interface
Talking of the interface, it is time to rethink issues. Quite a bit’s occurred within the ten years since we first noticed the TiVo interface, and it hasn’t stored up. That new search interface is a begin, however it is time to let go of the SD buyer and begin critically designing for the sixteen:9 HD show. You’ve got received much more room to work with now, so give us the info we crave, like storage meters, PIP, and community-enabled info overlays. Hell, go loopy and toss in a 3rd-social gathering widget API, like Yahoo’s doing. Repair the straightforward stuff, too: there should not be any jaggies. Reordering the Season Move precedence listing ought to occur seamlessly within the background as an alternative of locking the consumer out for an indeterminate time period. Switching between the “native” TiVo interface and issues like Netflix and HMO apps should not be so jarring and contain apparent decision modifications.
Simply being barely higher than the cable firm’s rubbish will not reduce it for for much longer — once more, the Media Middle PC kicks your ass proper now, and the excessive-finish buyer on which you are at present relying goes to determine that out quickly.
four. Ship the Series4 with tru2way help as quick as you possibly can
Sure, we’re telling you so as to add in a whole lot of options, however time is of the essence, and the subsequent era of TiVo hardware with tru2way help must hit cabinets quickly. The only largest cause individuals do not change to TiVo is the shortage of cable firm on demand and pay-per-view content material, and tru2way will put an finish to it. Positive, the interface is perhaps out of your arms and largely sucky, however hey, it’s going to nonetheless be there. Panasonic already has tru2way hardware available on the market and the system is reside in a couple of cities with main rollouts deliberate for July 1 — so what is the holdup right here?
Oh — and simply name it the Series4, okay? Belief us.
5. Cajole, persuade and inform your viewers with promoting
Everybody — everybody! — says they will “TiVo” a present. However they do not truly know what a TiVo is, and you are not telling them. We kind of get why you would not spend a ton on promoting proper now — the financial system’s in a gap and your providing is not essentially $300 and $12.ninety five a month higher than the cable firm — however you’ll want to make investments closely in explaining to individuals why your subsequent product goes to vary the best way they eat media. Present them the distinction between a DVR that works virtually completely and the crap they’re caught with now. Maintain their hand in the course of the inevitably dangerous CableCARD set up. Supply lifetime service plans once more. Briefly, give your clients a cause to purchase into your model and proper individuals who say they’ve “a TiVo” once they imply a generic DVR. It will not be straightforward, however it’s doable — you simply want a product that deserves the trouble.Wrap-up
Look — none of those concepts are assured to work. Perhaps the surest path to profitability is certainly promoting software program to cable and satellite tv for pc corporations. Perhaps Microsoft will eat all the DVR marketplace for lunch with a mixture of Media Middle, Home windows House Server and the Xbox 360. It is rattling properly going to attempt. However we might guess the overwhelming majority of shoppers will nonetheless be puttering alongside recording simply 15-20 % of their media on crap DVRs till they’ve a compelling cause to modify to one thing higher. That is an enormous alternative ready to be seized, however it’s not going to take a seat there perpetually — the TiVo model may offer you a bonus to start out, however until you make some critical strikes, subsequent-gen units just like the EchoStar SlingLoaded T2200S are going to grab it out from underneath you. The subsequent ten years begins now — we’ll be watching.