Looks like Roku and the Xbox 360 won’t be the only set-top boxes making the jump from 802.11g to the faster, further 802.11n spec this fall. While I’ve been scanning FCC filings lately, trolling for something specific, a new TiVo wireless adapter wasn’t on my radar. Fortunately, the Engadget team is a more thorough and frequent FCC visitor, digging up TiVo’s upcoming 802.11n wireless access point (AN0100). Most of the good stuff, such as external photos and the user manual, are held back under a short term confidentiality request, so we find ourselves with more questions than answers. But that’s never stopped me from speculating…
My TiVo Series3 and TiVo HD each communicate with my home network via TiVo’s very own 802.11g USB wireless adapter. And the solution just isn’t fast enough to copy HD content from one TiVo to another for real-time progressive download playback. So, I assume one goal of this product is to improve the situation by pushing video faster over 802.11n. Which would also enhance Amazon VOD and Netflix HD playback for many.
Additionally, TiVo’s multi-room viewing (MRV) copying has got to go as the cable-cos are locking down their television programming with a CCI byte value designed to limit the number of digital copies. (I’m dead in the water for transferring anything other than local broadcasters on Cox Communications, as is Alex of TiVoBlog.com with Time Warner.) Given the increased bandwidth of a 802.11n solution, TiVo should feel more comfortable pulling the trigger on a software update which enables true MRV streaming, like Windows Media Center or Moxi, thus bypassing the cable restriction — no additional copies would be produced. (And this may be a bit more than idle speculation on my part… I recently came across a comment on the TiVo Community suggesting streaming is in the works. The author is not a TiVo employee, but he’s extremely knowledgeable in these things. What made the post memorable was the fact that it was quickly deleted for reasons unknown.)
Lastly, by going with an access point over a simple wireless adapter, TiVo would be able to eek out better network performance using an Ethernet connection rather than USB — due to their current hardware design. Additionally, access points should allow customers to effectively extend the range of their wireless infrastructure by building out a TiVo mesh network. Pairs (or more) of pre-configured wireless access points (aka bridges), can also easily communicate with themselves, requiring minimal user intervention as seen with Vudu and Sonos. I’d like to see a pair of these going for about $100, with additional units running say $60. And I’d like to see them this year. Make it so, TiVo.