From CES, What's Next For TiVo

Dave Zatz —  January 10, 2012


I’m not physically present in Vegas this year but, as part of the CES festivities, TiVo remotely briefed on their ongoing initiatives. Of course, here at ZNF, we’re most interested in the status of the retail TiVo Premiere DVR line over MSO partnerships. And last week TiVo unveiled a massive system software update in addition to an Android companion app. But what comes next?

TiVo has another significant Premiere software update in pipeline, scheduled for a spring delivery. In addition to my conversations with VP Jim Denney, RCN seemingly corroborates the timing – targeting a May release of software version 21. Building upon version 20, it sounds like we can expect additional under the hood codebase unification to more efficiently support various TiVo platforms and partners. More relevant to TiVo customers will be continued performance improvements and fleshing out of the high definition user interface (HDUI).

In terms of specific functionality, parental controls will make a return to the platform. However, it won’t be in the form of TiVo Kid Zone. In fact, as I’ve been speculating for months, I’m not certain TiVo will invest in rebuilding, what I assume is, a niche feature for the HDUI. Then again… maybe we’ll ultimately end up with something more robust — user profiles for all? TiVo Premiere hardware is also slated to gain additional multi-room functionality. But, as for what that entails, we’ll just have to wait and see.

On the app front, TiVo’s 2012 Spring Update will finally welcome in modernized Netflix and YouTube experiences — similar in appearance to the ones found on the TiVo-powered Best Buy HDTV, and largely eschewing the TiVo UI for their respective prevailing lean back interfaces. Unfortunately, I’ve got nothing to report on an updated Amazon video app. On one hand, TiVo’s existing Amazon implementation could very well be their best – as high definition video is downloaded to the hard drive for uninterrupted, high bitrate playback. On the other, Amazon Prime members such as myself, are entitled to a large library of “free” video streaming that isn’t available on TiVo. And apparently won’t be in the near future.

And then there’s the TiVo Preview. The Preview currently acts as an extender for TiVo Premiere hardware, including the four tuner Premiere “Q” – which also goes by the Premiere “Elite” in retail. In addition to streaming DVR-ed recordings Premiere-to-Preview, the Preview also features a CableCARD for local tuning… but no local storage. Right now, the only place one can pick up the compelling whole-home Preview accessory is via subscription to a TiVo cable partner like RCN. But I imagine there’s a number of retail Premiere owners who also like to partake. Sadly, I get the sense there are no imminent plans to bring the Preview to retail. Hopefully, once the software is further fleshed out to enable things like remote scheduling and iPad app support in mid 2012, TiVo will have figured out how to market and price the Preview for retail.

Update: TiVo’s also demoing Slingbox-esque placeshifting capabilities at CES. Click here for details.

31 responses to From CES, What's Next For TiVo

  1. The lack of a retail Preview is delaying the purchase of at least 2 Elites in my family. I really don’t understand the Elite being released without the Preview. I don’t plan to buy another TiVo until I can get an Elite and multiple Previews. We’re currently working with two Series 2s in the house and it’s getting painful (just got 1st HDTV for Christmas).

  2. v.20 must have been a significant change in code base and a pre-requirement for v.21 enhancements. I don’t remember TiVo ever releasing two updates this close to each each, and by that I mean more than once a year.

  3. Carroca,
    Like you, I was waiting for a Preview to act as an extender for my primary DVR, a Premiere Elite. I decided I couldn’t wait so I sold my lifetime TiVo HD on ebay for $300+ and bought a Premiere with lifetime for < $400. Now that I'm running 20.2 its well worth it. Turns out the Premiere makes a better extender the Preview and gives me an extra 2-tuners for the odd occassion I might need to record 6 programs simultaneously!

    That's dissapointing news on the Amazon front. Do you think its some sort of rift between Amazon and TiVo causing the issue? I am excited about the new Netflix experience. I'm indifferent on YouTube at this point but I might use it more with an upgraded client.

  4. I wonder if they are trying to finish updating their current features before adding any more. Since it took a while to implement Hulu into search results, maybe this is the reason for the delay. I do agree it would be nice to see Amazon Prime streaming though since I now have access to that and will be losing Netflix at the end of this month.

    I do agree with Sam that these days I don’t really visit youtube, but still an update even just to quiet the people requesting it will be nice.

    I have enough TiVos to keep me busy so no need for a Preview, but I can definitely understand those who want one.

  5. Sam, I don’t have any real intel, but suspect most Amazon software development initiatives prioritize their own Kindle platform. For example, the Fire offers the only mobile Amazon Instant app. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Amazon release their own Android-based streaming set-top box or smartphone this year. We shall see. I don’t have a great sense on how the various app business relationships work between TiVo and folks like Rhapsody… and suspect they vary company to company. Lastly, maybe us TiVo owners don’t use Amazon often enough for one, the other, or both companies to bother at this time? Who knows. But hopefully we’ll be pleasantly surprised at some point – maybe it’ll be part of a summer update.

  6. “On one hand, TiVo’s existing Amazon implementation could very well be their best – as high definition video is downloaded to the hard drive for uninterrupted, high bitrate playback.”

    The best way to buy a la carte lean-back video anywhere is Amazon via TiVo.

  7. So wait- the premiere line doesn’t have kid zone? I had no idea. And here I was contemplating an upgrade.

  8. It has KidZone, but not in the HDUI. It is only in the SDUI.

  9. the only reason i dont subscribe to Prime is i can not get it on my Tivo…. Otherwise that and the other offers of free shipping etc i would.

    Dave, is there any hope were ever going to access our VOD features from cable providers thru TiVo

    I have fios, but would consider switching back to comcast if at least is was supported by one of them. Even finally upgrade my S3 to get this option, then the only option missing would be a built in sling

    Which makes me wonder why is Dish so much more innovative in this area then Tivo

  10. Mark, TiVo also informed me that Comcast Xfinity On Demand access via TiVo is on track for delivery throughout 2012. I’m trying to find out more on the mechanics from TiVo, but suspect timing and regional info would have to come from Comcast. TiVo had no comment on Cox. As with the RCN On Demand functionality, these are probably worked via an IP back channel and SeaChange as retail CableCARD devices don’t natively provide two way communications to the cable headend. Beyond the implementation, there’s obviously also business relationships at play.

  11. Will Ceton beat TiVo to the DVR-Extender punch? 6-Tuner cablecard DVR, plus extenders over MoCa or Ethernet.

  12. Michael Burstin January 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    #Dave – do you know whether the Comcast On-Demand will still apply to retail TiVo boxes or is Comcast planning on using Tivo boxes as new DVRs? I am thinking about getting an Elite box next time I get a 10% coupon from Best Buy (hopefully MLK weekend) but would hold off if Comcast is planning on distributing them and if I couldn’t use the Elite for On-Demand.

  13. Michael, the Comcast stuff will work with retail Premiere hardware. Still trying to find out more on the mechanics, but that much I know.

  14. I’m just wishing some of this functionality being touted would also be available on the Series 3. The cost of transferring my Lifetime subscription to a new TiVo unit (again) means I’m not yet willing to upgrade. But I also can’t justify getting a second unit for multi-room viewing if my current unit won’t work with it. Bummer.

    I’m also miffed that I just got an ipad2, but most of the cool functionality requires a Premiere…

  15. Dave:

    So I was one of the unlucky ones who bought a whole bunch of Tivo HD XLs just before the Premier came out. Is there any word on the new codebase coming to this box? I realize it’s older hardware, but it’s not that old…

  16. Michael Portuesi January 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I still have my Lifetime Series 3, and was astonished and disappointed to learn that the current Premiere units don’t offer Amazon streaming. Hasn’t the Premiere been out for two years now? A feature that might have convinced me to upgrade is still MIA.

    I ended up buying a Roku XS to offer the missing functionality. And its Netflix support is also way better than TiVo. It’s kind of sad to watch TiVo fall farther and farther behind.

  17. Eric, in terms of age your hardware may not be that old but it’s a different generation and TiVo has really switched gears with this Flash UI. I can’t imagine the S3/THD platform will see much in the way of updates other than critical bug fixes and perhaps an occasional app updates (although Rhapsody wasn’t bothered with…).

  18. How about bringing some of these modern enhancements to the DirecTivo? The HR22 can run DirecTV’s HDGUI. Do you think Tivo’s choice with using Flash is its Achilles heel?

  19. Well… DirecTV would probably have to pay for those sorts of enhancements on newer hardware. Given DTV’s compelling 5 tuner “house brand” DVR and what I assume will be limited uptake of TiVo, there may not be much incentive for them to invest. Regarding Flash, it’s hard to say. I don’t think it’s the wrong platform necessarily, but I’m not sure they had early mastery of it.

  20. Dave:

    Thanks for the honest opinion. I see your point. I wish Tivo had some sort of trade-up program, but until that happens I suspect I’ll stick with what I have.

  21. Dave, please help all of us out and get a quote from these guys as to why they refuse to give us what we want: the Preview! Why on earth can’t I give them money for their products? This whole exclusivity thing has never made sense to me, if only because I have no possible way of voting with my dollars.

    I understand carrier exclusivity with cell phones, because I can be tempted away from one carrier to another when my contract is up, if I know the other one is the only place to get a phone I might covet.

    But the Tivo/RCN deal makes no sense because of cable monopolies. I have no possible way of becoming an RCN customer, and I live near one of the few RCN markets (but not IN it).

    This is all very frustrating. Please put some pressure on the Tivo folk to give us a real answer. So far it just seems like a slap in the face to the Tivo devoted…

    ps- in response to the user Chucky who said: “The best way to buy a la carte lean-back video anywhere is Amazon via TiVo.”

    Clearly this is someone who has never used vudu. I have never had a good experience with Amazon on Tivo. I’ve ONLY had good experiences with vudu on Boxee Box. I really wish they were on Tivo…

  22. I don’t mind an extra box – as long as it is seamlessly integrated with the TiVo.

    They could have easily included this functionality in the Elite only – that would have been disappointing. As it is, the stand alone box is doing all the heavy listing and should work with a box I already have!

    I would love two options from a nit like this – stream to my iPad when I am in the house and/or move a movie to the iPad for viewing when I am away!

    MRS and MRV depending on my need!

    If it were at best buy today I would have stopped on the way home to grab one…

  23. Encouraging news from Tivo lately. Nice to see. Hopefully this apparent increase in release frequency/speed, perhaps spurred by their success in patent suits and partnering with MSOs lately. We’ll see.

    I wonder if all the people asking for Q’s would be so demanding if they found out the Q was going to have the same monthly fee as their Tivo HD unit… Matt? Do you only want the Q because you hope/expect to have no monthly fee for its use? Or would you still want it if Tivo expects $14.95/month for each one…?

    My own experience with Tivo/Amazon was that I used it early on but eventually the crappy UI (not even listing episodes of Battlestar Galactica in release order fer crying out loud, or even giving season/episode numbers, only titles!) drove me to an Apple TV which is where I do all my movie rentals/TV show purchases now. And like others once you try something else you realize how backward Tivo is for playing music, viewing photos, etc and you stop using it for those things.

    Similarly as an Amazon Prime customer with a small child, I picked up a Roku unit to access my free content, since it includes all the Sesame Street episodes. And again, once you try something else, you may never consider your Tivo that one stop shop ever again…

    That Ceton thing sure looks interesting Anthony. I’ll need to see some reviews and understand the issues with Windows Embedded and Ceton’s skin to better understand the trade-offs but certainly seems like this could be the future… maybe.

    Would love to see the Tivo/Comcast VOD thing worked out. If it follows the XBox 360 support by very much (that’s still not out either so who knows right now) I might just pick up one of those just to get access to it. And again, once I do that…

  24. Glenn – the Q is MSO version of the Elite, or the Elite is the retail version of the Q. Same box.

    I think you mean the Preview – the streaming, non-DVR box.

    I really don’t expect TiVo to charge the same kind of monthly fee for it, since it is clearly not as capable a box. I expect it will have a lower monthly fee and a lower lifetime rate than the DVRs.

    The Verge has a photo from a better angle:

    In that photo it is clear that the streaming box only has Ethernet and power. The coax and dongle must be connected to the box the streamer is sitting on top off. In the photo here it is an optical illusion that they’re going into the streamer.

    TiVo also responded to me and made it very clear that this isn’t even a prototype so much as a technology demo, a proof of concept. So any product, if it becomes a product, may look very different.

  25. MZ, yeah I saw the Verge’s photo and wondered if mine was an illusion or if they cleaned up the cables before Nilay snapped his pic. I pinged Engadget and CNET – hopefully they’ll dig up some more details today or tomorrow. Then again, as TiVo says this is merely a conceptual prototype. Although I heard from a former TiVo employee who says this thing has been kicking around their labs for years…

    Regarding the Q, folks aren’t discussing TiVo’s Q at the moment… rather, it’s Ceton’s upcoming 6 tuner DVR. Sounds promising, but we’ll have to evaluate the execution before we pass judgement – intend to blog it some time this week. Then again, I just re-read Glenn’s post and MZ is right – he’s talking about the TiVo Q but may be referring to the Preview. Think we both need more coffee.

  26. Michael Burstin January 11, 2012 at 7:57 am

    One thing that I’ve read about the 6-turner Ceton device is that it really is 2 3-tuner devices glued together. Last I heard, it needed 2 CableCards and I think 2 coax inputs. I think the only thing it didn’t need was 2 independent power cords. I vaguely remember reading that M-stream CableCards only support 4 streams so that goes along with this box needing 2.

  27. @michael: You’re confusing the HDHomeRun Prime 6 tuner device with the Ceton Q. Ceton Q is a true 6-tuner device that requires only 1 CableCARD.

  28. Mega-

    Of course I meant the Preview. Oops.

    You know that Joey name Dish is using is starting to grow on me…

    I do wonder if Tivo would consider something like RVU support in the future, allowing you to do away with the boxes next to the TV (now that Samsung is supporting it in the 2012 TV line).

  29. Dave,

    Is TiVo phasing out over-the-air tuners going forward?

  30. Haven’t heard much on the Tivo front lately. I’m assuming they are fighting the battle of cable provider DVRs. I had a TIvo for a while and really loved it, but it just became too expensive to keep both going. I guess some people really love their system though.

  31. You haven’t heard much on the TiVo front lately? Guessing spam or you don’t have the internet considering just a month ago they launched their newest TiVo which has been the most successful launch in my opinion to date. If you look at recent news on this very page you will see 2 links out of 8 about the new TiVo.