What’s next for TiVo?


Over at EngadgetHD, Ben Drawbaugh lays out a case (and wishlist) for the imminent release of new stand-alone TiVo DVR hardware. Given the recent TiVo price drops, upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, and long gestation period since the last hardware refresh (Summer, 2007), it’s not an unreasonable proposition.

However, when it comes to tru2way, the cable industry as a whole isn’t quite there yet. CableCARD separable security was federally mandated, whereas the vision of a universal tru2way infrastructure is merely an unenforceable memorandum of understanding amongst many industry players. Who blew right on past their self-imposed deadline. So any new (imminent) stand-alone TiVo box would either need to forgo tru2way capabilities or remain operable in non-tru2way cable environments.

As far as CES is concerned, I get the sense that TiVo fears any big product announcement would be overshadowed amongst thousands of other companies vying for attention. In the years I’ve been attending, TiVo’s CES presence is usually understated — they’re tucked away off the show floor, in a back room conducting mostly invite-only briefings/meetings. Also, if TiVo isn’t prepared to begin shipping new hardware within a few weeks of a show product announcement, they’d potentially cannibalize TiVo HD sales while customers wait it out. And given timing of the new, super-powered Broadcom chip announcement, I don’t foresee it being implemented anytime soon. (Not that this is/was known to be a TiVo Series 4 component.)

What we do know is that TiVo’s been constructing a richer, widescreen UI for at least 18 months. And we’ve seen some of the (mixed) results with TiVo’s new search. In the same time frame, TiVo’s also been hiring Flash Lite developers. For presumably something more than prototyping work. The question is, would a total UI replacement require new hardware? The unofficial TiVo Community forum experts seem to think so. On the other hand, folks may be selling the existing chipset short. I recall that while with Sling Media, we were quite, uh, interested in understanding the TiVoHD chip’s possible transcoding capabilities. Regardless, it’d probably make sense (technical, conceptual, financial) to draw the line in the sand and provide a new UI and experience on a new, more capable box.

I’ve heard various whispers over the last couple months suggesting something is coming. But the often contradictory tea leaves haven’t given me much. And I’m unsure if TiVo’s upcoming 802.11n wireless access point adds to or clarifies the mystery. We rarely speculate or deal in rumors, and even shy away from pre-announcements, but if I had to guess I don’t imagine we’ll see new stand-alone TiVo DVR hardware announced or released in 2009 or at CES (beyond a Best Buy-ified TiVo HD).

Of course, I’d like to be wrong. Unless relief (and modernization) can be provided via a significant winter software update (and 802.11n access point?) to address my persistant SDV and MRV issues.

7 thoughts on “What’s next for TiVo?”

  1. I think that we will end up with a Tru-Way box at some point, but don’t think that we’ll see any big announcement at CES either. At Goldman Sach’s investor’s conference Tom Rogers said that subscriber acquisition was TiVo’s number 1 goal. After years of stalling, they wanted to boost subscribers again now that they have a ton of Dish’s cash. He didn’t come out and say that they were going to increase subsidies or cut prices to spur demand, but did talk a bit about the balancing act between growth and profitability that TiVo has been forced to walk. While this could be a blowout, I think it’s more likely that TiVo is making a real push for subscribers right now and aren’t worried about doing it at razor thin margins if that’s what it takes. This argument is further bolstered by looking at TiVo’s recent job posting for a Sr. Director of Acquisition marketing. For a company who has had layoffs in the last 12 months to create a new position gives you at least a little bit of a hint at their priorities.


  2. “I’ve heard various whispers over the last couple months suggesting something is coming. But the often contradictory tea leaves haven’t given me much…”

    TiVo as a software*only* service, sans dedicated hardware? Ala Slacker and “Android turn-by-turn navigation vs. dedicated in-car hardware”?

  3. I don’t see how Tivo can get any more subscribers with the current offering at the current price. Either new hardware needs to come out or the price needs to come down. I mean the TiVo HD is almost three years old and sells for almost the exact same price. If nothing else you’d think new hardware would be cheaper to make.

    No, TiVo’s options are to innovate or die.

  4. I don’t have the SDV issues so my Tivo experience is pretty great. I do wish the interface was a bit snappier and regaining my lost on-demand would be a major bonus, but I’m not really complaining. I would love some real multi-room support, some improved UI, and an integrated media player would be outstanding.

  5. @Ben – I agree completely with your last point.
    Tivo needs to drop the current hardware prices, or introduce something new finally. Like a new UI, please!!

    The longer you delay the more ground you have to make up. Microsoft is slowly eating away at your market share, and not alone. AT&T U-verse is using licensed media room technology…for an almost identical media center feel. But in both scenarios the multi-room support is top notch, another area that tivo needs to improve on.

    Lastly please add a media player, or you will lose out on another market. Roku, WD, Seagate, Popcorn Hour did you notice that they are appealing to some!?!?

    Tivo take notes please, its 2009. Time for the refresh already!!!

  6. The next generation has to deal with SDV more than just a dongle add-on. I’m not sure if that’s the same as having tru2way, but that might needs to be there as well. Since many people take advantage of their cable’s on-demand programming, that certainly would be a selling point for people who haven’t even taken the DVR plunge.

    And there’s speculation that the FCC patent recently submitted by TiVo for hardware with the wireless-N standard is for some new type of streaming. So maybe they’ll have a better solution MRV that Ben has been rightly critical of. Certainly they’ve figured out Netflix streaming on the Series 3, even though its hardware wasn’t originally designed to do that. I’d imagine they’d have a better solution for streaming if they could start from scratch.

    But TiVo has always had the reputation as a premium DVR, which is why most people stick with their Cable co’s STB. They need to figure a way to open up the market so thet can widen their subscriber base. Otherwise what is the point of innovating if no one takes advantage of it.

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