TiVo To Challenge Apple TV With Voice Control

Dave Zatz —  September 16, 2015

By way of Fierce Cable, we learn TiVo is seemingly posed to introduce voice recognition and control.

Jeff Klugman, EVP and general manager of products and revenues for TiVo, said “I don’t know” when questioned whether the company would build a TiVo app for the Apple TV. Klugman also pointed out that TiVo offers a number of the same features as Apple TV, including universal, voice-powered search.

Now TiVo wouldn’t be the first to bring voice to the DVR and linear television, as Comcast beat them to market with a legit Xfinity solution. And, on the streamer side, Roku and Fire TV both provide voice control… via physical remote or app. Indeed, a quick Internet search shows TiVo has been developing an Android solution with cloud-based, natural language processing.

tivo-android-voice-control

I assume iOS would also be on the docket and perhaps a revised remote control will ship with the 4k TiVo Bolt. But I really, really hope voice control extends beyond TiVo’s universal search. Despite their generally superior interface, pulling up apps remains inefficient … and I’d much rather just speak “Launch Netflix.”

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16 responses to TiVo To Challenge Apple TV With Voice Control

  1. I wonder if you’ll be able to use voice control to control some of those SD menus that still exist?

  2. I’m really want to see the 4K Tivo Bolt. It sounds like THE ONE I’ve been looking for…live tv/dvr, OTT apps and integrated voice control that works well. Tivo is still the best option to me. Hopefully, the Bolt is even better.

  3. Arrgghhh… Why? Why do I want to talk to my TV?? Can’t they focus on getting content, i.e. other streaming apps? I can’t imagine that people say “I was going to buy a Tivo but it doesn’t let me talk to it, so instead I will get Roku/Amazon Fire/ Apple TV”. People don’t get Tivo for usually one of three reasons:

    1) They don’t have/want a cable card.

    2) Quantity of streaming apps are vastly inferior to Roku/Amazon/Apple, i.e the competition (despite what their marketing says). Currently we can choose what, NetFlix/Hulu/Amazon/YouTube/Vudu.. ok how about the channels, like HBO or Showtime??? I think I have HBO2Go on a Walkman/Blender, but not my TiVo.

    3) The cost. Unit plus $12 a month? Even the new AppleTV looks cheap compared to that… People don’t understand why they have a monthly fee when it gets them no content on a box that they own… Remember people are cutting the cable because they feel like they are paying too much for things they don’t want.. i.e. content… and a TiVo I am paying for information about content? That is a hard sell…

    If I was them they should be working on:

    1) Become the next SlingTV. Seriously if they are not making that a reality then everything is hinging on collecting money on their patents. It makes the monthly fee seem reasonable and does not tie them to what the cable companies are doing. Become the virtual cable operator then you are good to go… Cable Cards? who cares you stream.

    2) Enable the porting of streaming apps from say Andriod or whatever to TiVo. Seems like if they could do that they could vastly increase their streaming options (i.e. match their capabilities with what their marketing says on their website/box). It is awesome that the iOS app knows if a show is in another streaming app (like HBO or ABC) and opens it, but this does not carry over to the TiVo box because the streaming apps are not available to my TiVo box, which is crazy. I have more options in the TiVo iOS app than on the TiVo hardware… that means they are doing something very wrong, when Apple/Andriod is creating a better TiVo experience than TiVo is.

    3) Make Wishlist suck less. Seriously two monthly ago I searched for Interstellar, it brings me the movie, I set up a wishlist… for the next two months if either the title of the show or summary has the word interstellar in it, it gets recorded. All false positives. This continually blows my mind… some how from the search menu when I bring up Interstellar and look at upcoming it lists only upcoming showings of this movie, but set up a wishlist and it is total garbage… Why for the love of God, why???

    4) Maybe this is just a dream of mine, but I would imagine that people who currently use TiVo (my self included) invest more in TV then the average person, so they have HBO or Showtime, what not… I would love to be able to find a place where I could see what are the new movies in the next two weeks. Not just new to this channel, but actual new movies, the ones that usually premiere on Fri-Sun on a pay channel… I would love that instead of hand going through all the stupid pay channels/website to see what this is, then set up the recording (hopefully not a wish list…).

    5) Ok going on a limb here, but movie trailers and new TV shows… I loved that you could see TV show trailers then easily set up a season pass.. why not movie trailers? (after you fix the horrific wishlist functionality).

    6) Flogging a dead horse, but a consistent UI would be nice, but I think in 2015 clearly you don’t care and honestly at this point I don’t either, I rarely visit the crappy UI portions of my TiVo and it isn’t a reason that people don’t buy.

    TiVo please don’t do until you address the actual TV/Movie entertainment ideas from above, i.e. the reason I have a Tivo, the below is just gravy/”a rabbit hole” not a reason to get into the ecosystem:
    1) Voice Control
    2) Virtual Reality
    3) Games
    4) Home automation
    5) Social TV <- Whatever that is
    6) The physical appears of the TiVo box <- People may ooh and awe over Apple's design but it because they press that electronic slab against their face and hold it in their hand, my Tivo is out of sight, because honestly I don't need more LED lights in front of me, neither does anyone else… Remote sure, that is out on the coffee table, I like the slidely keyboard, awesome, two gold stars.
    7) Adding more functionality for people who watch sports <- Just sit this out for a while, but I can't imagine this is your core… See how that MLB app for the AppleTV works out, do people want 24/7 stats while watching a game?

    I think that if TiVo sticks with trying to be a universal hub for viewing entertainment, then they can't go to wrong. Make it easier, make it more breadth (cable or streaming) than I can imagine, let me watch it whenever or where ever (Andriod/iOS.Amazon streaming) and you got something. Short of that, hopefully that new patent works out…

  4. Maybe I’ll be able to talk it into finally deleting that undeletable zombie recording that has been there for months.

  5. “TiVo To Challenge Apple TV With Voice Control”

    Yowza! TiVo to challenge the 4th most popular streaming box with voice control!

    (Fixed that headline for you. Every Clickbait headline kills a cute animal.)

    And yeah, you do cover the non-clickbait reality in the body of the post. The most popular streaming box, the Roku, and the Comcast X1 are the Joneses to be kept up with. And yeah, the TiVo rep is responding to an Apple question. But still…

    Also, FWIW, the 5 folks I’m closest to IRL with iPhones all have disabled Siri. Not a scientific sample, of course.

    “Despite their generally superior interface, pulling up apps remains inefficient … and I’d much rather just speak “Launch Netflix.””

    Who knew. I always thought those annoying dedicated Netlfix buttons on remotes were all about promotional payment, instead of being a welcome feature for Dave. Those 4 remote clicks from TiVo -> right into My Shows -> page down to Video Sources -> right into Video Sources sure are inefficient. I’m going bald from tearing out my hair out of frustration every time I have to spend the inefficient 10 seconds it takes me to get there.

  6. While voice control isn’t at the top of my list of features to see in the upcoming TiVo Bolt, it makes sense given that TiVo’s competition both on the cable DVR side (Comcast X1) and the streamer side (Fire TV, Apple TV) now have this feature. If TiVo is aiming for their new hardware to look state-of-the-art, I’d say UHD and voice control via remote are both necessary.

  7. Hey Brad,

    Regarding your question about seeing what new movies are being shown on HBO/STARZ/ETC this week, I solved the problem by setting up a Wishlist with the following parameters:

    Keyword: 2014
    Category: Movies

    Once you have it set up, you simply go into the Wishlist and select “Upcoming.” You’ll see a list of all of the movies from 2014 that are airing in the near future. It’s not perfect, but it works for me. The main problem is that I cannot figure out a way to exclude channels (like Lifetime) from the Wishlist.

  8. Thanks for spreading the word from my post over on TCF, Dave. I always love it when TiVo is given the widest dissemination possible! :-)

  9. Hey Peter,

    Good tip! Thanks for this… I totally agree about excluding channels for this…

  10. Chucky – your four click (also include time for the menu to draw) *IS* less efficient than a Netflix button or a voice command. It may not be the end of the world, it’s certainly a classic “first world problem”, and it almost certainly won’t single handedly cause many people to buy one over the other, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t a nice to have.

    And yes, I somehow don’t think the five people you know who disabled Siri are representative of the Apple ecosystem. But then, I think you too know that.

    As far as who TiVo is chasing… I don’t think it was click bait. Even if Roku sells a few more units, thanks to iPhone, iPad, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Apple TV, Apple Watch, OS X, etc, the truth is, Apple is the standard bearer in the tech world, and so too is Google. Doesn’t matter who sold more of what over the span of a lifetime of a product’s availability. People chase Apple and Google, not Roku and Samsung.

    Although to be honest, TiVo isn’t exactly chasing either. Their competitor is incumbent cable company boxes. To the extent you can replace my need for a streaming box (i.e.: is a TiVo in one room, with a bunch of mini’s in every other room a superior upgrade from a cable box AND saves me $35 to $150 in each room not buying Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV or whatever Google’s product is this week), and pay less overall on rental fees to that cable company… yeah, that’s a good place for them to be. But if they enter your household, get your $15 a month, and I still buy Roku, I don’t think it bothers them.

    Besides, if taken literally, your headline ain’t perfect either:

    “Yowza! TiVo to challenge the 4th most popular streaming box with voice control!”

    Roku has voice. Amazon has voice. Apple WILL have voice. X1 isn’t really a streaming box. My inlaws have it. It has cable, on demand, and I think YouTube. I don’t remember any Netflix, Amazon, MLB, HBO Go, or Angry Birds.

  11. @Chucky most of the iPhone users I know don’t use nearly everything Siri has to offer, but they certainly haven’t disabled it. What’s intriguing to me about the new Apple TV is that it’s taking a step toward the “Zero UI” world and that might be the only thing that would induce me to give up TiVo if — and this is a giant if — it actually works well.

    TiVo has a lot of great features and all, but I stick with it because nothing else, including anything from Apple, comes close to the speed and ease of controlling video playback. We love to complain about slow menus and all that, but I still haven’t seen any box (admission: I haven’t tried anywhere near all of them) that can match the responsiveness of TiVo’s playback UI.

    Trying to go back and hear what someone said on Apple TV has been a horror show up to now. If the new voice command actually work properly, that will be alleviated. I’m intrigued.

  12. Most people who had real issues with Apple TV’s came from trying to jail break them. I have an Apple TV and Roku and Tivo’s. Recording still offers the best picture quality and flexibilty vs. streaming on anything. Recording is the main strength of a Tivo, apps are icing on a cake, but not the cake.

  13. “And yes, I somehow don’t think the five people you know who disabled Siri are representative of the Apple ecosystem. But then, I think you too know that.”

    Sure. Most people are idiots. Almost no people ever touch defaults. I have zero doubt that folks in my IRL circle are not representative. They tend toward the tech-savvy. Hell, I know a handful of folks IRL who have TiVo’s! How incredibly unrepresentative can you get?

    “Although to be honest, TiVo isn’t exactly chasing either. Their competitor is incumbent cable company boxes.”

    Agreed, in part. I’ve made the similar point in a few other threads that TiVo 4K was mainly about not getting trumped by the Comcast box, with a significant side dish of not getting trumped by Roku, Fire, and the rest.

    And the exact same calculus goes for voice control.

    “As far as who TiVo is chasing … Even if Roku sells a few more units … Apple is the standard bearer in the tech world”

    Strongly disagree. Again, Apple is fourth in the streamer market. OS X has market share of around 7%. Apple is the standard bearer in mobile phones, not the tech world.

    And even the mighty iPhone, where I freely acknowledge as Apple as the tech standard bearer, doesn’t have majority market share, even if they’ve got an overwhelming lead in profit share and affluent users.

    Look, Cupertino is the largest corporation on the planet. Media coverage of them is catnip. Their position in the mobile phone market is not totally meaningless in pursuing their side ventures. But, again, shield your eyes from the iPhone and its massive margins for a brief moment, take a good look around, and they’re really not the “standard bearer in the tech world”, even if they’re a very major player.

  14. Chucky, I didn’t say they were number one in streaming. Or phones. Or computers for that matter. But they really are the standard. Companies with larger market shares are chasing Apple’s mind share.

    And despite my heavy Siri use, I’m quite certain I’m neither an idiot, nor do I leave things on their defaults.

    A couple of years ago Audi overtook BMW as the largest luxury automaker. People still looked to BMW and Mercedes first in the industry. Just the way mindshare works, and it can often trump marketshare.

    Walmart sells a crap ton more groceries than Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but people are intrigued by the latter and bored by the former.

  15. “And despite my heavy Siri use, I’m quite certain I’m neither an idiot, nor do I leave things on their defaults.”

    Certainly not my intention to slur you, or anyone else who happily uses Siri, Scott. Saying that most folks are idiots, and that almost no folks ever touch defaults, really wasn’t an attempt to imply anything more than that.

    I’m a firm believer that very different use-case-scenarios are often perfectly correct for different people and situations.

    “A couple of years ago Audi overtook BMW as the largest luxury automaker. People still looked to BMW and Mercedes first in the industry. Just the way mindshare works, and it can often trump marketshare.”

    Well, yes and no. Believe it or not, TiVo still has incredible mindshare. Folks still use it as the verb for ‘record something on your DVR’ more than any other formulation. When press folks screenshot a still frame on teevee, it’s far more often showing the TiVo UI than a Cableco’s UI. But, well, you know where I’m going here.

    Cupertino is obviously not TiVo. But yet again, if you pretend the iPhone doesn’t exist for a moment, Cupertino looks quite a bit more like TiVo than you seem to think. (And I’ll repeat my above caveat that Apple has the potential to leverage its iPhone position to improve its prospects in other areas. But if you look at history, that’s really not the common way things play out.)

    Mindshare is great. Cupertino’s propaganda operation is best-of-breed, and that even precedes the iPhone. But Twitter’s got great mindshare too, and cuz it doesn’t have an iPhone money machine, someone is going to burn it to the ground at some point.

    In short, mindshare doesn’t trump marketshare or profit share. You’d much rather be the bigger, more profitable car company than the one car enthusiasts like to talk about. (Apple had great mindshare in the ’90’s, and almost got burnt to the ground.)

    Finally, I was an immense Apple fanboi up until the mid to late oughts. Then I started gradually moving over to this position. And I actually think that’s the vanguard position which is starting to filter down. If I’m correct about that, it will do predictable things to mindshare over time…

  16. We just got our voice command remotes for our X1 and we love it. It is so much easier saying ESPN or NFL Network than pulling up the guide and strolling down to the channel and selecting it. Yes we have some of the channels memorized in our heads, but a lot of times we forget channel numbers so it’s really helpful to be able to use voice control on the remote. I love it a great deal.