TiVo’s CES Secrets

Dave Zatz —  January 8, 2011

tivo-destruction

As with CES 2010, TiVo’s booth was invite-only in 2011. And while I engaged in some enlightening conversation during my visit, there’s nothing I can publicly share at the moment. However, I did get to fondle an unclassified Virgin TiVo unit and snapped some pics of the new Cisco hardware – in addition to a few other booth/show locations. So, although there’s not much to say at the moment, you’ll know we’ll continue to cover TiVo developments as they arise.

24 responses to TiVo’s CES Secrets

  1. Such a tease. Can you give us a thumbs up or down on the new (can’t talk about) things?

    John

  2. I didn’t read the NDA legalese too closely, but suspect I’m prohibited from sharing anything more than I’ve shared above.

  3. Does anyone see the irony in the “Don’t accept a half-baked TV solution” when the Premiere came out (and still is currently) half-baked? Is there anything more half-baked than having updated only half of the menus? I do have and enjoy a TiVo Premiere, but just find the marketing a little ironic.

  4. “Does anyone see the irony in the “Don’t accept a half-baked TV solution” when the Premiere came out (and still is currently) half-baked? Is there anything more half-baked than having updated only half of the menus? I do have and enjoy a TiVo Premiere, but just find the marketing a little ironic.”

    The crazy thing is that the Premiere is still less half-baked than any other solution.

    It is as it has been. TiVo is the worst DVR in the world with the exception of all the other DVR’s…

  5. I don’t know anymore Chucky… Verizon FiOS TV IMG 1.9 looks pretty solid (should be here soon) and DirecTV’s current stuff is good as well. And DISH Network with integrated Slingbox functionality is quite progressive. Maybe I’ll do a post on my favorite DVR experiences (and most hated, like SARA).

  6. “Verizon FiOS TV IMG 1.9 looks pretty solid”

    Well, depends on some things to even get it in the same ballpark.

    First are the details of the eSata impelementation.

    I can cheaply stick a 1GB drive into a TiVo HD or a 2GB drive into a Premiere. If FIOS implements an unusually sane eSata strategy, that’s one point where they can mostly neutralize TiVo’s advantage.

    Second is the fact that I can get programming off of a TiVo supplied by FIOS service. I don’t imagine IMG 1.9 can match that, and it’s actually pretty powerful in a workflow, if one cares to use it, as I do.

    Third is the fact that I actually like having my Netflix service use the same remote and interface as the rest of my DVR.

    Fourth is that I like Amazon VOD full downloads. There seem multiple significant advantages to me of Amazon VOD over FIOS Pay-VOD.

    On the FIOS IMG side are access to VOD of cable services you’re already subscribing to, and any UI points IMG can beat TiVo on, (which seems like an easy bar to top.)

    But for my overall purposes, I can’t imagine IMG can touch TiVo at this point in time. And given the corporate constraints of FIOS in designing their DVR solutions, I can’t imagine they can ever beat TiVo for my purposes, unless TiVo simply dies. But time will tell.

  7. Yah, given your use case and workflow TiVo is the most suitable box for your needs. My primary interest these days is whole home DVR (without requiring a Mac Mini ;) ) and TiVo has begun to lag the competition. Having Netflix and Amazon VOD on ‘input one’ is quite valuable though, I agree. Of course, your smart TV could also do that… ;)

    Verizon’s eSATA implementation will be sane (and is part of IMG 1.9). They’ll bless some drives, but will not block any out.

  8. Fifth, I live in an area with multiple wireline service providers. I can change providers at will, if I ever so desire, without losing my saved programming, without having to learn a new interface, and without even having to consider the providers beyond what they actually provide in terms of wireline service.

    It’s nice to negotiate with a wireline provider on cost, and telling them that since you own a TiVo, you’re not partially locked into remaining with them in the ways most consumers are.

  9. “My primary interest these days is whole home DVR (without requiring a Mac Mini)”

    I’m a believer in one-TV households for sanity reasons unless you’ve got kids. I think it’s good for relationships. (Plus, I’m an urban resident, which has an impact.) So, true, I don’t generally consider that aspect.

    But if you ever do get that Mini, supposedly a Plex client is running on jailbroken rev2 Apple TV’s. So for anything that isn’t “live-ish” TV, you can automate downloading from TiVo into Plex on the Mini, and have it show up on your other whole home TV’s using the cheap Apple TV boxes as media extenders. (Not to mention that Plex will serve your other iOS gizmos without any jailbreaking…)

    And, of course, with FIOS, TiVo’s half-assed whole home solution will actually work, albeit at a relatively high equipment cost if you’ve got lots of TV’s to be served.

  10. “Having Netflix and Amazon VOD on ‘input one’ is quite valuable though, I agree. Of course, your smart TV could also do that…”

    Netflix, yes. (Though with a different remote and interface.)

    Amazon VOD, no. Or at least not in the sense that I appreciate Amazon VOD.

    If I understand correctly, (and I’m not 100% sure of this), TiVo is the only place you can get Amazon VOD downloads, which means both that it’s the only way to get 1080i pq, and the only way to get VOD not subject to bandwidth hiccups that can result in potential buffering disruptions and even lower quality than the 720 you’d otherwise get…

  11. True, Amazon VOD on TiVo is superior because the content is downloaded with presumably higher bitrate material. Additionally, you can trigger the download from a computer while at work for example so the movie is waiting when you get home.

    However, TiVo’s Netflix UI is dated in both appearance and function. I’m not a fan and will watch Netflix any other way I can, like Roku or Xbox, even though it means flipping inputs and remotes (while the Harmonys are on hiatus).

  12. Dave, can you say what the point of an invite only booth is? I am trying to imagine. The only thing I can think of is that they show the cards for the next year and want to keep the impact of the announcements.

    Can you comment on previous TiVo invite onlys, what percent of thing did you see that were introduced within a year of you seeing them?

  13. I was wondering the same thing, Brad. Is it just to keep the bloggers/media interested in covering TiVo? I’d love to see that Comcast VOD app come to fruition now that they are doing something similar with Samsung TVs.

  14. Michael Burstin January 8, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    @Bill, I like the thought about the Comcast VOD app. The only reason I haven’t bought a Premier is I don’t know whether it will ever support VOD. I currently have a TivoHD in the living room, but a Comcast DVR running Tivo software in another room which can get VOD, if I really want something from it.

  15. Tivo is so private anymore, I have to wonder if they are just paranoid with other people stealing their technology *cough* echostar *cough*.

    The other companies are proud and WANT to show off their goods at CES to create buzz and press on their new gear. Maybe Tivo didn’t have anything significant to show. Or what they had was “half baked” and it would of just created more negative comments.

    Provider based DVR’s are starting to overtake Tivo. With all the big name MSO’s and DBS providers working on their new next generation HDUI’s, it’s a wonder how much longer Tivo will remain relevant, given their stagnant development.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t *hate* Tivo, like it may sound in some of my posts. I’m just overly critical of a company who fails to deliver a complete product on time (or relatively on time). Also the rumor is that the new DirecTivo will be the old SD interface? What year are we in again? Where’s the effort they put into the Virgin Media Tivo? That actually looks very promising. If only they could bring that to this side of the pond.

  16. Tivo should wow us and bring their completed Virgin Media HDUI to the new 5 tuner DirecTV HR34 with RVU. Small RVU clients (built into TV’s or set back boxes) could do real multi-room Tivo.

    But I don’t see that happening. It would be too good to be true.

  17. Brad, Bill, TiVo isn’t the only company at CES with a strategy of holding invite-only meetings, but given who they are and what they do it does seem unusual. I’ve discussed it with them a bit last year and thought about it – their rational is sound. Especially since they can be overrun with customers. While TiVo probably would want to energize the customer base, CES isn’t their venue for direct-to-consumer interaction. They’re doing investor relations, briefing partner companies, working biz dev, etc. And of course briefing select bloggers and press, such as myself.

    Also, utilizing a private booth saves a lot of money as you don’t have to make it flashy and you don’t need the same amount of staff to run it. Additionally, that space you would have used for various displays can now be turned into various meeting rooms which TiVo hopes is a more productive approach.

    Given the one subscriber I saw badgering the front desk people for 5 minutes, they probably made the right choice. This dude wanted tech support for his broken Series2 remote. Then he wanted to look around the booth because he’s a customer. Then he wanted to sit down because he was tired (as a way of getting inside). Then he wanted a free shirt. Which is how I think they were able to get rid of him. Imagine that times 10,000 – folks who have TiVo or want to understand what TiVo is. But opening the booth probably wouldn’t move many new units or retain customers. But it could get in the way of TiVo’s other CES objectives. Plus, me taking pictures from a public booth of stuff we’ve already seen probably wouldn’t excite folks anyway.

    Lastly, there’s more to CES than the convention center floor. TiVo did have a table set up at the Digital Experience press event in Caesars Wednesday evening where they introduced folks who weren’t already familiar to the Premiere.

    Bill, I’m in favor of private briefings where you get questions answered by the right people and get to play with the tech beyond the hustle of the show floor (as I did with Microsoft and Verizon, for example). But holding briefings under NDA doesn’t excite media. At least, not me – I find it to be a deterrent. There’s a lot to see at CES and my time is limited – blocking off time for stuff I can’t cover is costly. So I turn down almost all briefings of this sort. TiVo was my lone exception this year.

  18. I hope they said something about greatly improving their netflix UI. Not only is it the worst (and slowest) experience, it is the only time I ever get buffering problems while watching content. Wired and wireless. I mostly use the ps3 to watch anymore and im thinking about getting a roku box for the bedroom and not use the series 3 for netflix.

  19. Given that Tivo makes public announcements for new boxes that take years to arrive–Premiere, DirecTV (still not out)–and “Coming Soon” features that fail to arrive soon–Hulu Plus and the Tivo iPad app–the mind boggles over what pie-in-the-sky vapors they might announce under NDA. I’d say anything is conceivable. No doubt a bit of science fiction adds spice to CES.

  20. –I didn’t read the NDA legalese too closely, but
    –suspect I’m prohibited from sharing anything more
    –than I’ve shared above.

    Good man Dave. TiVo’s NDA’s are pretty tight, but it’s refreshing to see someone take an NDA seriously.

    John

  21. Dave,

    Can you say when the embargo period is over, is that also embargoed info?

  22. I think there’s a slight misconception regarding how most private briefings go down. It’s usually a broad conversation – some things will remain confidential indefinitely while others will become public whenever a company gives the green light.

  23. I see a reason for invite-only booths or meeting suites, but doing it under NDA is not very exciting. But, I guess, TiVo must feel like their fans/users will stick with them even if they don’t provide much guidance on anything. Did they ever commit to a date for a full HD UI or any other improvements?

  24. I just want to hear more on the (highly antipated?) Direct TiVo unit – can I be the only one?!. I’ve been a satellite customer for 16 years. As such, I still live in a SD world since I primarily watch recorded TV and there was no HD TiVo solution for me as a Dish Network customer. I switched from Dish Network to DirecTV about 3 years ago and shortly afterward heard the announcement of the new partnership between TiVo and DirecTV. This component is the last thing I need to finally enter the HD world. When TiVo…WHEN???