Archives For Satellite TV

DISH Network Calls TiVo Stale

Dave Zatz —  January 28, 2011

Over the last several weeks we’re been hit by a large number of comments originating from DISH Network. While we encourage industry participation and greatly appreciate corporate disclosure, this is a clear case of astroturfing – these drive-by comments largely bad mouth the competition while pumping their own product lineup, versus joining the conversation. My friends at GigaOm/NewTeeVee have been similarly hit and seem to feel the same.

Generally speaking, the comments haven’t been very compelling (or coherent). But the most recent contribution is extra special… posted by someone who identified himself as DISH Network employee and originating from DISH Network’s IP range:

TiVo has not made a lot of strides […] since their initial product release.  That’s why I’m glad I am both a customer and employee of DISH Network. DISH is constantly at the forefront of new technologies […]

Now I often come down on TiVo for their slow pace of innovation. But it’s a bit different when the criticism comes from a DISH Network employee… as they’ve been engaged in a protracted patent infringement battle. Which, incidentally, DISH/EchoStar lost. To the tune of $100 million and possibly counting.

So this is the point in the article where I’d typically make some snarky remarks wondering how exactly DISH might have found itself “at the forefront of new technologies” and suggesting TiVo’s been preoccupied with legal proceedings at the expense of innovation. But I’ll leave any further commentary to you in the comments…

First revealed as the Slingbox 700u at CES back in January, the smallest, sleekest Echostar placeshifter is now available to DISH Network customers for a low $99. And it’s the tight integration with DISH DVR hardware that allows the “Sling Adapter” to shed so much bulk… and cable clutter. Whereas an agnostic Slingbox requires video and network connectivity, along with an IR blaster and power adapter, the Sling Adapter requires a single USB cable to facilitate the broadcast of your television content around the home and beyond. However, Sling Adapter access is currently limited to web browsers on Windows or Mac OS X. Versus all the various options (web, OS X or Windows software, mobile clients) available to Slingbox customers. Lastly, the Sling Adapter only brings placeshifting capabilities to ViP 722 and 722k DISH hardware. Which might be OK as literally millions of these units have been deployed and this model DVR is standard for new customers (at no charge).

The initial reviews:

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As I don’t typically track investor relations outreach, I’m not quite sure if this is unprecedented or not. But it does seem noteworthy… TiVo has launched a website summarizing their ongoing patent dispute with EchoStar/DISH Network. And, beyond itemizing their progressive court victories to investors, it appears TiVo’s challenging the judicial system to do the right thing (as they see it) and wrap this up once and for all:

As TiVo has argued in its brief to the full court, the case is important to the entire patent system because judges must have the authority to enforce their orders in patent cases. Otherwise, determined infringers will be able to force innovative companies — and the investors, suppliers, customers, and commercial partners who respect and rely on their patents — into an endless game of litigation cat-and-mouse.

We’ve been covering this issue for years, including that time I about fell asleep in the courtroom, and I’m mostly bored at this point — preferring to focus on technology over litigation. Also, early on in my blog career I made the command decision to avoid investments (to the best of my ability) in companies I cover. But we know who reads our blog… and figured you’d appreciate this little nugget.

Yesterday, Logitech formally introduced the first Google TV product in form of their “Revue” television companion box. I think we have a decent handle on basic Google’s initial TV functionality – in terms of web search, video, and apps. But Logitech has layered on some additional functionality, which is compelling… and potentially confusing.

However, we here at ZNF roll geekier than most. IR blasters may not be the most efficient technology, yet they don’t scare us. And while we may be surprised by Logitech’s $300 price tag, it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker… if Revue delivers something both unique and powerful. Until we see a Google TV with native DVR capabilities, Logitech’s video pass-thru and Harmony-esque remote control capabilities do indeed seem promising.

Instead of merely adding another box to the mix, the Revue actually controls our other boxes (via integrated IR transmitter or additional external IR blaster) and relays video (via HDMI input). So while set-up may be a bit more complex, the end result appears to be a bit more of an integrated home entertainment experience. The tightest integration thus far is specific to DISH Network set-top boxes that extends search across one’s program guide, recorded shows, and DISH VOD:

No IR blaster required for set-up with DISH Network. Simply connect the Logitech Revue Companion Box and your DISH receiver to your home network. With a wireless home network, just connect the Revue box to the network and use a single Ethernet cable between the Revue box and the DISH receiver to provide Internet connectivity to both devices.

Bundled with the Revue is a very nice looking, slim wireless keyboard, with integrated touchpad. However, that’s it — there’s no traditional remote control included. And there isn’t even an optional remote accessory, at least not at launch. Yet Android and iPhone smartphone users will have access to a free Harmony app for full-on (and more compact) control.

Speaking of accessories, Logitech is also leveraging their extensive video camera experience to bring conferencing/chat capabilities to the Google TV platform by way of a $150 camera. It seems a bit pricey, but I assume you need beefed up hardware to properly capture audio and video from across a living room – as opposed to sitting inches away from a typical computer-based webcam. It’s not my thing and, given the number of iPhone 4s saturating the marketplace with Facetime, I wonder if others will want to join into Logitech’s “Vid” network. But it’s a nice value-add for Logitech.

So we’ve got a lot to chew on here. And I’m not convinced we’ll have all the answers until Revue units start arriving. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on one towards the end of the month, but Mari‘s a bit more skeptical. From our informal email exchange, which she didn’t realize I’d be quoting, shortly after Logitech’s presentation:

Looks fun, but not sure it’s useful.

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Not that you had any doubts after seeing the beta correspondence and executive comments, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse. However, I did notice TiVo has updated their website to reflect that a 2010 DirecTV TiVo launch is off the table.

Earlier last week (below):

TiVo and DIRECTV have renewed their partnership, which means a new HD DIRECTV DVR featuring the Emmy® award-winning TiVo service is expected to launch to support satellite customers in 2010.

Later last week (above):

TiVo and DIRECTV have renewed their partnership, which means a new HD DIRECTV DVR featuring the Emmy® award-winning TiVo service is expected to launch to support satellite customers in the future.

Additionally, DirecTV.com now states:

We expect the new receiver to launch in early 2011 and we will provide more information as soon as it is available.

New DirecTV TiVo Delayed Into 2011

Dave Zatz —  September 25, 2010

It’s official… The new DirecTV TiVo, announced in 2008, won’t be available until 2011. Which probably isn’t so surprising as CEO Tom Rogers left the door open for another delay at TiVo’s last quarterly call and the recently revealed beta testing is scheduled to run through January. And now PC Mag has the official word from SVP Joe Miller, who confirms the Technicolor-built DirecTV TiVo unit will ship “early next year.” Additionally:

Some of it’s timing, some of it’s development, their platform architecture continues to change and develop, and we’re trying to stream into that, and it’s been that as much as anything. Anytime it’s a new development on a fluid platform, it’s going to take time.

I did feel TiVo’s original 2009 target was aggressive and perhaps unrealistic, given their track record with Comcast and Cox integration and deployment. However, I was hopeful of seeing a a new DirecTiVo in 2010. Good for consumers, good for TiVo, Inc. But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

(via Megazone)

New DirecTV TiVo Beta Underway?

Dave Zatz —  September 23, 2010

In case you didn’t believe a new DirecTV TiVo is really under development, check out these purported beta invitation and rejection email messages:

Thank you for your interest in TiVo’s beta programs. We’d like to invite you to join the Field Trials Team in beta testing hardware provided to you by TiVo. To participate you should be:

  • Available to test between now and January, 2011.
  • Willing to endure potential bugs, even with existing functionality – and report them in a timely manner.
  • Willing to complete weekly homework assignments.
  • Willing to share your experiences with others in our beta forums.

Thank you for taking the time to sign-up for our DirecTV/TiVo beta program.  The response to this beta invitation was much greater than what we had expected. We’ve now completed our recruitment for this trial and you have not been selected to participate at this time due to the limited amount of space available in this trial.

While we know Technicolor/Thompson hardware has been selected for DirecTV’s new TiVo offering, the image above is merely my artistic rendering. But what we we still don’t know is when the elusive new DVR will hit. And, for comparison purposes, it seems that the retail Premiere was in broad beta testing for maybe 6 months prior to release. The renewed DirecTV TiVo relationship, established in 2008, was intended to bare fruit in 2009… yet we’ve obviously eclipsed that target. Their current goal is late 2010, but I’d say we’re more likely looking at 2011. What’s your wager?