MeedioPC Magazine (10/04/05 issue) reviewed five DVR software packages as alternatives to Microsoft’s Windows Media Center Edition (MCE). All were deemed good values and worthy competitors of Tivo… assuming you have an extra computer with decent specs. Meedio Pro earned an Editors’ Choice award and was followed closely by Snapstream’s BeyondTV bundle. Bill Howard preferred Meedio’s level of customization and sound effects over the competitors, while he appreciated SnapStream’s inclusion of the Firefly remote.

PC Mag says: If you’ve been longing for a media-centric PC for the living room but haven’t wanted to buy a new Media Center PC to get it, you’re in luck. Media-player software packages you can load on an existing PC have gotten much better, giving you a TV-friendly interface to access your music, photos, DVDs, videos, and (with the right hardware) even live and recorded TV. Some tasks are demanding of Windows resources, so don’t expect to run one of these MCE workalikes on your three- or four-year-old PC without a hiccup. But if your PC is up to it, the DVR functions of all the products here are just about on par with TiVo – only without the monthly subscription fee.

PC Mag also handed out an Editors’ Choice stamp to the HP z555 running Windows MCE, proclaiming it “nears perfection.” I find the praise a bit high considering they complained of regular reboots due to sluggishness and average system speed.

HP z555

Marketing With Tivo, Dockers?

Dave Zatz —  September 24, 2005

The positive buzz surrounding Tivo is leading to some strange marketing synergies. The recent iRiver PMC deal makes sense as an option for watching Tivo To Go, but the JCPenny Dockers promotion is way out in left field.

Dockers says: Buy $100 of Dockers Men’s Qualifying Apparel and/or Accessories Between September 25th and September 28th, 2005 and Receive a Free TiVo Series2 40-Hour DVR and 3 Months of Free Service.

Logitech Harmony 520 In The Flesh

Dave Zatz —  September 23, 2005

Harmony 520Logitech has begun shipping the new Harmony 520 to select Walmarts, which resulted in numerous phone calls and a distant quest to two stores. Why Walmart you ask? Logitech is aiming squarely down market with this $99 model – and I’ve concluded the cost corresponds directly to the number of buttons.

The main differences between the 520 and the 6xx line are obviously the the new physical design, dropping the hard coded activity buttons along with many others, and the introduction of new software – for under a hundred bucks.

As with other models, Harmony remotes are configured online using a web-based wizard with your custom settings being downloaded via USB into the remote. The 520 is the first in the Harmony line using updated configuration and connectivity software. Logitech promises this will eventually be available to all Harmony devices – in fact it is currently willing to configure my old 659, though I haven’t tried. Keeping with the Harmony way, you program your remote using activities. For example a Watch DVD activity might turn on your TV, switch the input source, turn on the DVD player, and dim your Lutron lights. Soft buttons listed in the LCD allow for an unlimited amount of function keys.
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TiVo LogoFirst Macrovision DRM, now this… Tivo has gone the route of most cell phone providers with their updated service agreement. They’ll sell you hardware at a loss, but guarantee themselves service revenue to recoup those expenses. If you cancel service within a year of activating your unit, you’ll be penalized $150. No caveat for multi-Tivo homes has been posted or explained, though Tivo did use the word may in the new policy.

Tivo’s definitely learning how to become profitable, but at what cost? New ads and fees like this will likely alienate a percentage of customers.

Tivo says: WITH RESPECT TO ANY NEW TIVO SERVICE SUBSCRIPTION ACTIVATED ON OR AFTER SEPTEMBER 6, 2005, YOU AGREE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE TIVO SERVICE FOR NO LESS THAN 12 MONTHS (THE “SERVICE COMMITMENT”). IF YOU FAIL TO MEET THE SERVICE COMMITMENT BY CANCELLING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION TO THE TIVO SERVICE (OR IF TIVO TERMINATES YOUR SUBSCRIPTION TO THE TIVO SERVICE DUE TO A BREACH OF THIS AGREEMENT), YOU AGREE THAT TIVO MAY CHARGE YOU A $150 EARLY TERMINATION FEE, AND YOU AGREE TO PAY ANY SUCH EARLY TERMINATION FEE.

Tivo Advertising Campaign Stymied

Dave Zatz —  September 23, 2005

TiVo TV AdAnd I thought this month couldn’t get any worse for Tivo… First they’re hammered with bad press due to Macrovision DRM. That was followed by Metron, the company handling Tivo’s phone and web orders, folding last Friday. Little did we know Tivo had a television and web advertising campaign beginning this week.

Sadly, Tivo is still unable to receive web or phone orders. They did list a new phone number, though I received a message stating the line is out of service. 1-877-BUY-TIVO has an updated recording indicating they plan to reopen for business 9/26.

Tivo says: Sorry, but we’re unable to take your order online at this time. Please order by phone now: Call 1-800-698-3530

Verizon Flips FiOS TV Switch

Dave Zatz —  September 22, 2005

FiOS TVFiOS TV has gone live in Texas with a huge selection of digital channels and VOD at very competitive prices. Verizon plans to expand service into Florida, California, and Virginia later this year. FiOS TV uses Verizon’s fat pipe fiber optics to provide IPTV via a set-top box.

Verizon says: FiOS TV subscribers will enjoy 100 percent digital programming, as well as access to a large selection of video-on-demand content. Expanded Basic delivers more than 180 video and music channels for $39.95 a month. This tier includes access to 600 on-demand titles now, with 1,800 by year end. This service requires a standard-definition set-top box or a high-definition set-top box for HD channels. Verizon offers three set-top boxes: standard definition for $3.95 per month; high definition, which includes HD channels, for $9.95 per month; and a digital video recorder set-top box with HD channels for $12.95 per month.

Moxi UIDiego’s Moxi Media Center, a dual tuner HD DVR, has integrated its existing Telephone functionality into UniTV’s cable services platform. Meaning you’ll be able to access your cable provider’s VoIP services, such as callerID and voicemail, directly through your set-top box.

Moxi says: Interoperability with UniTV allows deployment of Moxi Telephone on a much wider scale, said Bert Kolde, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Digeo, Inc. Now operators can provide Moxi Telephone over both VoIP and traditional voice networks, allowing them to offer attractive bundling packages and potentially increase average revenue per user.

In other Moxi news, Diego filled both their CEO and COO positions with seasoned Sony executives last month. Here’s to hoping these guys can speed up cable provider adoption of the Moxi platform.