TiVo’s New Hardware at The Cable Show

Dave Zatz —  June 16, 2011

tivo-preview-front

While 2011 marks the first year in ages we failed to hit The Cable Show, we’ve fortunately got friends with boots on the ground. Who kindly went on a TiVo booth recon mission to bring us photographs of the brand new TiVo Premiere Q four tuner DVR and non-DVR TiVo Preview. Sadly, TiVo’s rep clearly stated that they have “no plans” to make this whole-home DVR hardware available to anyone but cable company partners (with RCN up first). However, I’ll continue to hold out hope that the Preview makes it to retail in some fashion later this year.

29 responses to TiVo’s New Hardware at The Cable Show

  1. The Premiere Q enclosure still seems something of beta hardware given that misaligned coax connection around back.

    And someone please tell Barbs of Investor Village that he/she can kiss my ‘hack’ ass. ;)

  2. Honestly, Dave, I’d have no problem getting a TiVo from Time Warner Cable, if they offered it to me for a fee. I’m OK with someone else owning the box, and having it be there problem if there’s a hardware defect. What wouldn’t be OK would be if half the TiVo feature set were left out, just like Verizon Wireless picks and choose which OEM features to include in the phones you get from them.

  3. I’d be happy getting it through a MSO as well. But what percent of the population is served by RCN and Suddenlink? I’m reserving my enthusiasm for a time if/when a major player tries again (after that Comcast debacle). The current Netflix app isn’t very good, so I wouldn’t miss it (as I use alternatives).

  4. I really think I may be over TiVo at this point. I definitely agree with Ben’s comments on the EngadgetHD podcast this week.

  5. Greg Glockner June 16, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I’d prefer the iPhone business model: let the tech vendor control the user experience. I love the fact that the iPhone has the latest and greatest features from Apple, rather than being at the mercy of the carrier. Unfortunately, seems like TiVo doesn’t have the leverage – or the chutzpah – of Apple.

  6. Charter has a larger footprint and some recent comments from the Cable Show indicated that they are enthusiastic about TiVo.

    I’m surprised at the comment from the TiVo rep which appears to contradict what Roger’s recently said during the Sanford Bernstein Q&A.

    I would still wager that a retail offering of something new will be announced in August to September timeframe.

  7. Yeah, that enclosure is clearly a beta mule. Note the ‘Cable’ and ‘Antenna’ labels, while the actually cable input didn’t align with either one and there was no connection with the labels. Looks like a stock Premiere chassis modded for the new internals.

    As for ‘no plans’, that’s a standard industry answer when nothing has been announced. I still think there is a good chanced of the Preview, or something like it, hitting retail to pair with the Premiere, but I’m kind of skeptical the Q will ever hit retail based on what we’ve seen & heard. Well, not ‘ever’, if they stay in retail I think something like it may hit, but being digital only limits the market and introduces potential customer confusion since most end users just don’t know if they have truly digital or hybrid service.

    And I do believe both of these units are coming to Charter, not just RCN & Suddenlink. I’m not sure how they’d get these out on Cox & Comcast, given those are ‘retail’ deals, without making the boxes work as a general retail product.

  8. Can you clarify why Digital Only limits the marketability of the Premiere-Q? Is it related to the comments from @bjdraw during the engadgethd podcast about market confusion?

    I believe my provider has switched to primarily digital with some channels in SDV so I would be very happy with the Premiere-Q.

    If they decide to go only-only than they would be selling mostly to early adopters. They could clearly indicate what the limitations are related to the quad tuner Premiere. In this situation they would have something they could offer in retail to Cox and Comcast which seems very important.

  9. I’m not MZ and missed the podcast (I only watch/listen when it’s live and I can participate in the text chat room). But a digital cable only DVR would indeed be a challenge to market. There’s a ton of analog channels still out there so folks would wonder why some stations come in while others don’t. And, of course dropping over-the-air tuning would also be something to explain away. Although I suspect the number of exclusively HD OTA TiVo owners is small. A quad tuner DVR that handled ATSC OTA, digital cable, and analog cable could be too pricey to manufacture and then sell. Moxi tried digital cable only, but then had to back pedal with an analog tuner adapter. Perhaps the market is more favorable now, but I don’t see it happening.

  10. Obvious questions about the inputs…

    – So why exactly is there an antenna input anyway? I thought the thing wouldn’t handle OTA HD signals, or is that not true? If it doesn’t then it just needs a cable input and nothing else right? The MoCA network connection comes over the same cable…

    – Seriously, they’re still putting the bluetooth external and requiring that stupid dongle on every box? How does that make any freaking sense?

  11. Glenn, they could be leaving the door open, they could be intend to reuse panels/parts to save on manufacturing costs, or as MZ and I suspect, they’re merely using a convenient (existing) enclosure and this just is a pre-production prototype.

  12. I think we will see at least one of the boxes at retail down the line. TiVo is simply exercising PR discipline while they are trying to negotiate and close deals at the Cable Show.

    Even if TiVo doesn’t think they’re going to do it now, they will change their minds if they see a decent revenue opportunity. As a public company, they are driven by making their quarterly numbers. I think the best bet here is selling the Preview as a supplemental box at mass retail (please, with no monthly fee!).

    I agree with you Dave that the costs of a retail Q would make it challenging to sell at mass retail. However, they could go for a high end play: THX certficiation, improved cabinet (i.e. bring back the OLED display) and charge a high amount at select outlets (i.e Mangnolia or somewhere higher end)

  13. I think this would really help some of the smaller MSO’s get a reasonably nice DVR with Multi-Room and also an iPad app.

    Take my podunk cable co for example (www.secv.com). They have a great lineup, but crappy DVR’s on crappy software. No ipad app or mobile app of any kind. Remote DVR Management? Don’t even think about it. They are a smaller company without the resources of an in house programming team to develop this stuff. The Tivo solution would greatly benefit them by bringing all of those features on board while providing access to their VOD library and generate revenue by requiring internet (for VOD talk back) along with your TV subscription.

    I e-mailed their corporate and local office all of the details and they responded positively. It would get me off of DirecTV once and for all.

  14. Is that USB dongle labeled “P-D1″ in the last photo for Bluetooth?

  15. Basically what I said on the podcast is that I’m disappointed that TiVo didn’t announce it for retail, but believe it is all a matter of timing.

    For staters, this is an attractive product for cabler operators who don’t have the resources to develop their own multi-room solutions with iPad apps, etc. And this is the Cable Show, the show where you can announce things that will never come out and no one remembers because it is the status quo.

    As for timing, there is really no point in TiVo releasing the Q now as most of the deployed Tuning adapters only support two tuners and the new FCC CableCARD rules aren’t in effect (if Moto TAs had a bigger install base, this might not be the case). When those two things aline, it’d be a better time for a product like this to hit retail.

    There is no doubt in my mind that either of these devices will eventually be available at retail — assuming they are real that is.

  16. Funny how Moxi already has this product out there. If I was starting from scratch I’d buy the $999 Moxi package. Since I’m not starting from scratch I have three TiVo’s, all different generations. I think i paid at least $1600 for the three TiVos with lifetime, which is about what it would take to buy three Tivos with life time today.

  17. Sam – The problem is that 100% digital cable systems are still the exception and not the rule. In my area, even though Charter has gone extensively SDV (172 SDV channels) there are still twenty analog-only channels, by my count. I expect they’ll continue to add channels to the digital/SDV tier and either replace or duplicate the analog channels, but they haven’t made it yet. Now, the only analog-only channel I still watch at all is TruTV (for Forensic Files) and I’d be willing to give that up for the Q.

    But I don’t think I’m the norm – for one I know which channels are analog and which are digital, and how many SDV channels I have (which I get from the Tuning Adapter diagnostic screens). Most cable users who buy ‘digital cable’ don’t know if they have 100% digital cable or a hybrid system, and may not be happy if they plug in their expensive digital-only box and suddenly can’t get some channels.

    I think they *can* bring it to market, but it’d be a limited market. Probably online only, and it’d require a lot more consumer education to explain what it is capable of. Even then I expect it’d generate more support calls about missing channels.

    In my case the twenty channels are:
    10 WJAR – an NBC affiliate from a secondary market
    12 GOACO12 – Government Access
    13 LOOR013 – Local Origination
    18 INSP – The Inspiration Network
    22 HSN – Home Shopping Network
    29 E – E! Entertainment Television
    42 HLN – HLN (formerly Headline News)
    43 MSNBC – MSNBC
    47 SPIKETV – Spike TV
    48 TVLAND – TV Land
    60 STYLE – Style
    63 TRUTV – TruTV
    65 TCM – Turner Classic Movies
    69 VH1 – Video Hits One
    70 BET – BET
    71 MTV2 – MTV2: Music Television
    77 NECN – New England Cable News
    80 GSN – GSN
    95 EWTN – Eternal World Television Network
    96 WNEU – WNEU (seems to be Spanish language)

    The irony is that, while these channels have no digital versions, I have channels with *two* digital versions – SD & HD. (I uncheck the SD versions on my TiVp, but they’re still there.)

    I don’t really use them, but I know several people who watch movies on TCM all the time, or shows on some of the other channels. I don’t think they’d be happy about losing those channels in exchange for a Q. Unless/until Charter adds digital versions of the channels, it would be a hard sell in this market.

    And I’m afraid this is all too common, too many cable customers who have hybrid services with one or more channels that are analog-only that they wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice.

    Glenn – There isn’t an antenna input. Looks closely, there are labels for antenna & cable, but there is no physical connection. The actual cable connection is off to the side of the cable label, which indicates the back panel is not really meant to be used with the internals. It looks like a prototype or lab mule to me, not the final product. Probably a standard Premiere chassis.

    Hemo – Yeah, that looks like the TiVo Slide BT dongle.

  18. Can these new TiVos function as a bridge between MoCA and Ethernet? Otherwise, I would see having to bridge externally or multihome all the TiVos.

  19. Marte – Is the Moxi system even still available? They released that a couple of years ago, and there haven’t been any updates in ages. Since then Arris bought Moxi and nothing new has come out, I haven’t even heard of software updates. The Moxi unit is three tuners, and lacks support for any MSO VOD services.

    It doesn’t look like Arris is interested in doing anything with Moxi in retail anymore. They just released a 6-tuner MSO-only Moxi DVR which a couple of small MSOs have picked up.

  20. @Hemo_jr Good question. Wouldn’t expect the STBs to support bridging honestly. More likely you’d need to install a bridge where the cable comes into your house, in order to give the Tivos access to the internet. Pick up a Motorola NIM100 (that’s what I use) or if you want to save money, an ActionTec MI424WR:

    http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1145636

    This is assuming a retail version even retained the MoCA support of course.

    If an MSO installed this for you, I assume they would handle this part. Either installing a MoCA bridge as above, or simply using a cable modem with an internal MoCA bridge.

    @MegaZone,

    Interesting lineup of analog channels. So they moved all the important ones (NBC, ABC, …) to digital (duplicates I assume) but left these behind. Unfortunately as you say a number of these channels are things people actually do watch…

    Comcast moved to all digital overlay over its whole footprint something like a year or two ago, making DTA’s available for free for those extra outlets where you didn’t have a cable box. But as you say, I’m not sure this is common practice among all MSO’s.

    Like you I uncheck all the SD channels if there are HD channel equivalents in the lineup. The “HD” flag in the description isn’t reliable so you really can’t use it when you’re searching. And channel names often get clipped in the Upcoming Showings screen, so its just too much work to find the shows you want but only in HD. Easier to just remove the channels from the lineup.

    I actually wish Tivo would handle this situation better. I know Direct TV boxes will actually switch you to an HD channel feed if you click on the SD channel. Meaning I could just pick channel 2 instead of 702. Much easier. Or they could simply offer a setting that filters out SD equivalents of HD channels rather than making me do them one by one…

  21. TiVo’s press release indicates it can bridge:

    It is also the only STB of its kind that integrates a bridge between the MoCA and Ethernet networks to simplify and reduce the cost of installation, allowing the Premiere Q to easily connect to existing home networks.

  22. So, this bridging is deep in a part of the woods I’m not familiar with, but if the upshot is that you can use Ethernet and MoCA willy-nilly, well that’s the way it should be, no?

  23. “As for timing, there is really no point in TiVo releasing the Q (retail) now as … the new FCC CableCARD rules aren’t in effect … There is no doubt in my mind that either of these devices will eventually be available at retail — assuming they are real that is.”

    Ben makes sense to me.

  24. I’m still not convinced the FCC has teeth. So who knows when or if we’ll see a Cisco SDV Tuning Adapter (reliably) handle quad tuning. Also, I am convinced it’d be cost prohibitive to quad tune everything as the Premiere does. If they can’t move the Premiere, how will they move a higher end version? Now the extender, and potentially single stream tuning, option via a Preview variant and/or the Best Buy TV seems much more likely. But I’m repeating myself at this point. Let’s just say I’ll lay a $20 on the table that there will be no retail Premiere Q in 2011.

  25. Okay, so internal bridging possible. That’s good. I guess it kicks in automatically if you plug in both? Would work fine if ONE of your Tivo locations has both, but I think for most people who just ignore MoCA and use Ethernet for their boxes, the only place in their house with both Ethernet and RF is going to be the room with the cable modem in it. I think that most of the time these days that’s the living room/entertainment center though, since that’s where most of the devices that need Ethernet are located and not a bad location to broadcast the wifi from. So maybe it’ll work out in a lot of cases…

  26. The Virgin TiVo (which, granted, is Cisco hardware) integrates DOCSIS capabilities. Any idea if this will be in the Q as well as MoCA ?

    This would allow the Q to have 2-way communications with the cable provider’s head-end, facilitate transport for on-demand, and eliminate any need for a tuning adapter.

    The Broadcom BCM7025 chip supports both MoCA and DOCSIS. Not sure if this would be a candidate for use in the Q, but it illustrates that the hardware with these capabilities is there.

  27. Any word when they expect RCN to offer these? As a current customer, it could make for a pretty attractive solution. The current RCN offering is priced at $19.99 a month, which if you consider the CableCard rental cost, is a $3 discount over full retail.

  28. “Let’s just say I’ll lay a $20 on the table that there will be no retail Premiere Q in 2011.”

    That’s not a sporting bet. The proper sporting bet would be whether or not the Premiere Q will be released for MSO’s in 2011.

    I’d take a bet on the Q and Preview becoming available for retail within 12 months after they’re released for MSO’s. It makes both economic and strategic sense for TiVo to leverage both MSO and retail on the same hardware. You get economies of scale, and you keep the retail option alive and kicking, which is in TiVo’s strategic interests.

    “I’m still not convinced the FCC has teeth. So who knows when or if we’ll see a Cisco SDV Tuning Adapter (reliably) handle quad tuning.”

    Who knows if they’ll walk the walk, but they’re certainly talking the talk. And making CableCARD work for 3rd party devices is relatively low-hanging fruit for the FCC.

    (And do remember, the FCC seemed to hold out the threat of a mandatory IP backchannel if tuning adapters can’t handle the job. If I were Julius, and I were interested in making progress on AllVid down the line, I’d sure as hell make sure I wasn’t making idle threats on CableCARD. TiVo itself may be small potatoes, but making the Telecommunications Act of 1996 work at this level is a big fish that’s easy to catch.)

  29. More and more of us Tivo users are convinced Tivo’s decided to ignore retail in favor of the MSOs.

    Problems with the Tivo Premiere still haven’t been fixed.

    And now all service plans are much more expensive.