Given TiVo’s apparent deemphasis of retail and degraded Rovi guide data, I might not have branded this promotion a “Meltdown” … but there are certainly some good deals to be had here this summer. First and foremost is the TiVo Roamio OTA 48-hour “flash sale” — at $300, including lifetime service, this is a solid deal for a great cord cutter DVR (even though you may not need one). Plus it’s TiVo’s larger 1TB model. Further down the line are refurnished TiVo Mini extenders at $100. This may not be the best price we’ve ever seen, but it’s a nice discount and supposedly the newer, model with RF remote. Lastly, if you were already in the market for a Bolt or prior generation Roamio Pro, TiVo will spot you a minimum of $200 for a box with lifetime service.
2016 was the year of the mesh network, with WiFi routers finally breaking free of the commoditized hardware doldrums, and eero ruled the roost (although they didn’t actually serve up a true ‘mesh’ from the get-go) despite some fierce competition from Netgear Orbi. Beyond mesh, eero also successfully emphasized ease-of-use — although what some found simple, others found simplistic. While I’ve had to run my trio in bridge mode for the better part of a year, initial configuration was ridiculously simple and it’s largely been set-and-forget, with stellar throughput available from all corners of our home(s)… other than a transitory perfect storm of events that briefly took me down last December. And now, after 30 software updates since launch, the company is back with new hardware and claims of an even better experience…
Founder and CEO Nick Weaver tells me the second generation eero effectively doubles the performance of the original, in terms of bandwidth and range, largely due to re-engineering the antenna array and moving to triband radios. Whereas the original eero featured identical, interchangeable pods, the new eero system consists of the traditional (iconic?) eero base station and new Beacon satellite units, that take a page from Ubiquiti (and countless painful network extenders), going with a compact, wire-free outlet mount. However, if you appreciate Ethernet connectivity throughout the home, to accessorize (as I do) or for a more robust wired backhaul, all eero models of both generations are mix and match.
Other fun facts: The eero Beacon contains an ambient light sensor and dimmable nightlight (that many of us will simply disable) and the traditionally-shaped eero is powered via a USB-C cable. In our chat, Weaver repeatedly mentioned the home as an operating system, emphasized in practice via forward-looking Thread integration for IoT and an upcoming eero Plus service (with application provider framework) that kicks off with a beefed up proxy to protect against malware and provide enhanced parental controls. Continue Reading…
Voice control is all the rage these days… and TiVo is working on, not one, but two solutions. Beyond this exclusive pic of TiVo’s upcoming voice remote and native natural language processing capabilities, sources also indicate TiVo is dabbling in Alexa. Integration is not “terribly hard to do” given Amazon’s Alexa Skills api and TiVo’s already exposed network remote control and I’m guessing we might see the fruits of their labor this fall. Equally intriguing is a tip indicating TiVo will be bringing an IFTTT app to to the platform. How and where the automation framework links up remains a mystery, but there are certainly some interesting possibilities.
Although TiVo may be moving on, Canadian startup Nuvyyo is doubling down on Tablo with a spiffy new network tuner. The Tablo Dual OTA DVR ($250) features a significantly smaller, redesigned fanless enclosure. But that’s not the real story here. By integrating 64GB of flash storage, all customers now start with up to 40 hours of antenna TV recording capacity. Combined with exclusive Best Buy retail availability, the company is clearly attempting to push this product into the mainstream. Beyond the aforementioned bundled storage, Tablo Dual features comparable internals to its predecessors (which will coexist) — Tablo continues to tune performance and expand the ecosystem of streaming apps capable of receiving both live and recorded over-the-air video. Plus owners can still simply expand storage via an external USB drive and cloud DVR options remain on the roadmap. To maximize the experience, most folks will want the $50/yr subscription for two weeks of guide data… which is a much more palatable number than what TiVo requires. While the ‘headless’ tuner doesn’t neatly fit into the traditional set-top DVR paradigm, like Channel Master’s solution, it certainly offers a more modern and flexible approach… that others like Channels (Apple TV) and Plex have (Android TV) similarly undertaken.
Sigh. Sources indicate the TiVo Mavrik is dead. What was intended to be TiVo’s more modern take on antenna television now joins the Bolt Aereo Edition in the cord cutter dustbin as Rovi management calibrates a new TiVo. The Mavrik
is was a dual-tuner Tablo-esque network tuner with cloud recording capabilities that would stream video to multiple sources, such as the Amazon Fire TV. But, beyond business prioritization, I’m hearing that the technical realities of the product did not live up to the prior management’s hype. In fact, “bad” is an adjective one source levied. Further, we’ve learned all of TiVo’s consumer-facing initiatives are on life support. This wouldn’t necessarily impact existing customers, over the short-term anyway, other than products like the upcoming TiVo Vox products, with bundled voice remote, may also end up on the chopping block. If you’re not feeling blue yet, I can tell you that the TiVo Hydra interface originally planned for 2016 has been delayed again… until late 2017. There remains a small sliver of hope, given third party licensing and TiVo’s search for a new CEO. Perhaps that individual will see more promise in retail and can more effectively wrangle the development staff.
As TiVo continues to find itself, post Rovi merger, details have emerged on what looks like a new retail-focused offering called Vox.
TiVo has submitted six trademark requests with the USPTO for both the TiVo Bolt Vox and the TiVo Mini Vox. While multiple entities have seemingly confirmed to me that “Vox” is a thing, I’ve got nothing else to go on at this point… although I’m always willing to speculate. And one area in which TiVo has started to the lag the competition is in voice control. Comcast has offered an Xfinity voice remote for years, as one example, and DISH just brought Alexa to the Hopper. So given TiVo’s deficiency, the Latin origins of “vox” along with its current day usage, years of voice research at the original TiVo, and some strong natural language processing capabilities from the Rovi contingent, voice seems like a solid possibility.
Beyond the back-end infrastructure, how and where would TiVo deliver Vox voice services? An updated remote control (relayed by a tipster above) seems like an obvious choice, as Apple, Roku, Amazon and others provide. Yet why re-brand Bolt and Mini hardware? I suppose they could go that route if it’s simply a pack-in, but a more compelling approach might be new set-top hardware with always-listening microphones as implemented by Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the new ecobee4 smart thermostat. And the Mini is long overdue for a refresh, both in terms of its industrial design and corporate promises of 4K streaming to match its Bolt DVR hub.
A periodic roundup of relevant news…
As disseminated by Cord Cutters News, the new Roku 7.6 OS update resolves at least one “spam button” annoyance. When you accidentally sit on your Roku remote or your toddler grabs it, you won’t necessarily be dumped into a paid partner’s streaming app. Instead, while video is playing, you’ll be offered up a confirmation screen (as shown above, which doesn’t seem to time out) before making the leap. Sadly, Roku still doesn’t provide the ability to remap their growing list of rotating affiliates… to regain valuable real estate from a variety of shuttered services, like Rdio and Target Ticket (as shown below). While Roku remains a compelling player in this space many of their recent product decisions are driven by advertising and, by comparison, the similarly priced Fire TV offers a superior, clutter-free remote (that obviously pitches Amazon services via the on-screen interface).