Archives For CableCARD

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While most have little choice when it comes to cable providers, there are clear winners and losers when it comes to TiVo.

Years ago, the FCC, cable industry, and consumer electronics contingent, agreed upon the CableCARD as a means of of providing separable security to open the set-top box market for retail devices. Yet, there’s far more to the story as it’s been a rocky road… requiring additional government guidance for cable companies and due to the adoption of switched digital video (SDV) in many markets. We may find ourselves in the golden age of CableCARD, but not all providers are created equal. And what prompted this post was the discovery that Bright House brazenly charges for SDV Tuning Adapter rentals.

Look, we recognize that CableCARDs have been a burden for the MSOs. In fact, less than 550,000 TiVo DVRs are active on digital cable – after nearly 5 1/2 years on the market. So the cablecos have incurred all sorts of expense from required integration of CableCARDS into their own set-top boxes to training and support for what amounts to a small minority of customers who possess retail CableCARD devices like TiVo or the HDHomeRun Prime. Further, it’s not exactly a level playing field as IPTV (AT&T U-verse) and satellite companies (DISH, DirecTV) aren’t held to the same standard – even though they provide essentially the same consumer service, they’re regulated differently given their delivery mechanisms. And perhaps this explains why a cable company like Bright House appears to be throwing up roadblocks for retail CableCARD device owners… and why they bring up the bottom of our list as the absolute worst cable television provider for TiVo owners. Continue Reading…

tivo-hd-guide

TiVo has begun rolling out an update to Premiere and Premiere Elite DVRs. In fact, version 20.2 represents the most significant software update to grace the Series 4 platform since its 2010 introduction – featuring a core code rewrite with an updated architectural design and high definition user interface (HDUI) running on a newer iteration of Flash. Not only does TiVo promise me “significant” performance and stability improvements (building upon the second processing core that came online last month), but this moves TiVo closer to a unified software platform amongst their various partners and products. Unfortunately, the HDUI is still incomplete and the Netflix experience remains unpleasant. Having said that, there’s a lot to like here…

One of the most obvious non-HDUI shortcomings has been the standard definition guide, which is now replaced with modernized, HD versions of both the traditional “grid” guide and TiVo’s unique “live” guide (that I’ve never grown accustomed to). The channel banner(s) also sees a visual refresh… and relocation from up top to down below, with the addition of a browsable mini guide – as seen with many other providers. And, if you’ve been tracking the successful Virgin Media’s successful UK TiVo deployment, the handsome updated look should be familiar.

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TiVo’s “Discovery Bar” has also been rethought Continue Reading…

The 2011 Boxes Of The Year

Dave Zatz —  December 21, 2011

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It’s that time of the year again where we run down our selection of best digital media boxes. And, surprisingly, the top 2012 recommendations aren’t dramatically different from our 2011 picks.

In the ‘all around’ category, we’re still partial to the current generation of Sony and Microsoft gaming consoles… which offer far more than HD gaming. The Xbox 360 ($200) delivered more innovation in 2011 than the PS3, with (another) massive UI overhaul and new video services including Verizon FiOS TV and YouTube. Yet, despite Sony’s well documented security lapses, we’re nevertheless giving the PS3 ($250) the edge this year for two reasons. First, despite the proliferation of Internet video, there continues to be a void of compelling content that can’t be sourced (legally) online via services like Hulu or Vudu – making the PS3’s integrated Blu-ray player just as compelling as ever. Next, many desirable Xbox features, like Netflix streaming, require a $60 annual subscription. For gamers who play collaboratively online, it’s a sunk cost. But for everyone else, the Xbox 360 carries a recurring premium that’s hard to justify when a fee-free media streamer like the the Roku LT runs a mere $50.

Roku LT

Speaking of that 720p Roku LT, Continue Reading…

Moxi Guide 1

Some of us still mourn the days when Digeo could have launched a credible retail DVR product with its Moxi box, but at least the technology hasn’t gone away. After Arris’ acquisition of Digeo in late 2009, we finally saw the deal bear fruit earlier this year when the company rolled out its Moxi set-tops with Shaw in Canada and BendBroadband in Oregon. Now, product manager Paul Palermo says there’s more in store for the re-branded Moxi Whole Home Solution. Arris will soon make an SDK available so that cable operators can take advantage of the Moxi Gateway’s IP connectivity to deliver their own apps to the TV. In the near future, Palermo says that there will be web browser capabilities in the gateway as well, though whether operators choose to use them is another question entirely.

Lots of cable operators are creating their own apps these days, so it’s no real surprise that hardware suppliers are trying to facilitate the jump from tablets and smartphones to the TV. Initially, though, the cable operators using the Moxi solution are only marketing it as a whole-home DVR. That’s a relatively easy sell for subscribers, who now know what whole-home DVR is, and why they should want it.

Meanwhile, Arris also has the Moxi UI going for it. Cable companies can brand the guide at will, but the interface is recognizable from the Digeo days. Big cablecos will still build their own EPGs of course, but smaller ones are generally happy to let someone else do the heavy lifting. Check out the photos below (shot on site at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo) to see some shiny new updates to pics of the Moxi guide.

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A day or so before HBO GO was released to Roku devices I was tipped off that DirecTV and Comcast wouldn’t offer this service. At the time, I didn’t recognize the implication… but it’s become all too clear. Comcast and DirecTV are willfully preventing access to HBO GO on Roku devices, even though that very same content is offered to their subscribers via mobile devices and web browser.

In corresponding with Roku and HBO, I’m pretty sure this is neither a technical issue nor a licensing issue. So it’s not clear to me why Comcast or DirecTV would deny Roku owners access? My initial thought was that it boils down to fear of an over-the-top future… yet Comcast is bringing Xfinity to the Xbox and, generally speaking, HBO has done right by their partners and only offers HBO GO to HBO cable/satellite subscribers. I asked Comcast to help me understand, but their prepared non-response doesn’t shed any light on the situation.

Every day we’re working to make XfinityTV programming available to our customers in more ways including the Xbox, connected TVs, on websites like XfinityTV and HBOGo, on tablets and other devices.  Today, all HBO content is available on XfinityTV.com and through the XfinityTV app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.  We will continue to work with our partners to deliver even more choices to our customers in more places.

For now the mystery remains unsolved, with the impotent HBO and Roku encouraging customers to contact their respective providers if they’re not being served. And this marks another day that I’m pleased to be a Verizon FiOS TV customer.


Click to enlarge.

While TiVo, Inc hasn’t yet had much to say regarding availability of their new quad tuning TiVo Premiere Elite DVR, reseller WeaKnees just put a stake in the ground for October 10. While shipping dates on their web page have fluctuated these last few weeks, given the email blast above that indicates units are “In Stock and Shipping 10/10”, I’d say Monday’s launch is now a done deal.

As we reported last month, the well-endowed 2 Terabyte TiVo DVR will be sold online, in addition to being offered by Best Buy’s Magnolia outposts and custom installers as a high-end solution for digital cable — The Premiere Elite merely requires a single CableCARD to simultaneously tune and record four channels. Having said that, my interest in a $500 DVR saddled with a $20 monthly fee is somewhat limited…. until (if?) TiVo sees fit to enable TiVo-to-TiVo streaming and brings the TiVo Preview multi-room extender to retail.

However, for those with more than a passing interest, WeaKnees will begin accepting pre-orders tomorrow and is running a $25 off promotion through 10/16 using the code 25ELITE at checkout. You in?

Update: TiVo Premiere Elite hardware is now available at Best Buy Magnolia outposts. Word on the street is that each store should have two units and those 10% off coupons many of us recently received should be valid on this purchase. I snapped a pic of what I assume to be shipping packaging, versus a hopefully more colorful retail skin within. (Nope, guess not.)

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Right on schedule, coinciding with the 2011 CEDIA Expo, TiVo has made the TiVo Premiere Elite official. The 2 terabyte, quad tuning digital cable DVR will hit Magnolia outposts, TiVo.com and custom installers by the end of the year… assuming the FCC grants TiVo an analog tuner waiver (which is highly likely). Once available, the Premiere Elite retails for $500, plus those traditional TiVo service fees – running $20 a month or $500 for a Lifetime. But it’s not clear if multi-unit or Lifetime upgrade discounts will be made available. And, with this many tuners, folks might just consolidate making the point moot.

Then again, TiVo’s PR team had no comment when queried yesterday regarding TiVo-to-TiVo streaming or potential availability of a retail TiVo Preview extender… despite this datasheet bullet:

• Enables a whole home solution by connecting with other TiVo DVRs

All in all the THX-certified TiVo Premiere Elite is coming together as a solid offering, given a lower price than I had anticipated for those four digital tuners and MoCA capabilities. But I’ll be waiting on a completed HDUI, with improved performance, an updated Netflix app, and that aforementioned streaming (to a low fee Preview) before partaking. You?

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Despite limited uptake, Microsoft’s very fine and mostly free Media Center experience will live to fight another day within Windows 8.

How limited is usage? Well we don’t have complete stats, but based on this Windows 7 sampling, I’d say significant engagement is well under 1% of installs. Of course, 1% of bazillions could be a significant number. From Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky,

Our opt-in usage telemetry shows that in July, Windows Media Center was launched by 6% of Windows 7 users globally with the heaviest usage in Russia, Mexico, and Brazil (frequency and time). However, most people are just looking around; only one quarter (25% of 6%) of these people used it for more than 10 minutes per session (individual averages)

In fact, while Media Center won’t be retired, Sinofsky goes on to categorize it as “low profile” and states it won’t be available in early Windows 8 builds due to engineering and business decisions. With this kind of backing, it’s really no surprise the Ciscos and HPs of the industry haven’t stepped up with new hardware extenders. But I’m hopeful the audience is significant enough for smaller companies like Silicon Dust, Hauppauge, or Ceton to stake a claim.

(via Ed Bott)