After the debacle that was the Fire Phone, Amazon is back in the smartphone business with what appears to be a winning strategy. Instead of developing their own devices, at significant expense, Amazon is partnering with manufacturers to replicate their Kindle and Fire tablet ad-serving, subsidized-hardware approach in addition to pre-loading the companies commerce and consumption apps. So they end up with a similar sort of footprint in this space from a far smaller investment. And, on the flip side, their smartphone partners (initially Blu and Motorola) secure a new and potentially meaningful distribution channel. The only potential fly in the ointment is they’ve started with low- to mid-end devices and it’s unclear (to the casual observer) what the “Prime” demographic might prefer. Amazon’s intent is, likely, also to expand Prime’s reach by making these phones exclusive to the $99/yr program.

With Apple presenting Sling TV at WWDC this week, it’s safe to say their Apple TV television service remains on hold. Unfortunately, Sling TV still features a problematic interface and doesn’t provide access to “the locals” — like NBC and CBS. Further, while Sony’s PS Vue does include broadcast networks (in some regions) and a 28-day DVR, that service is currently limited to Playstation and Amazon Fire TV hardware. Well, today, Tablo has made good on their CES promise to deliver both live and recorded DVR television to Apple TV.

As a refresher, Tablo is something of a roll-your-own DVR. It’s a small headless box (starting at ~$200, plus service), featuring 2-4 tuners, that you attach a hard drive and an antenna to — with streamers like Roku, Fire TV, and Nvidia Shield delivering the video to your television. Of course, you can also view and manage Tablo from smartphones and tablets. Continue Reading…


Despite some hopeful announcements, Apple HomeKit continues to limp along. And many have turned to Amazon as the voice-controlled switchboard of their smart homes. Indeed, after originally unloading two Echoes as a novelty, I’m back on board with one Echo and an Amazon Dot — happily barking commands at Alexa. Amazon’s platform is far more inclusive, interoperating with just about anything, sometimes with help from IFTTT, without Apple’s onerous hardware encryption requirement — although endpoints aren’t vetted for security and Amazon is perhaps more ripe for (verbal) abuse, the possibilities seem endless and it’s oh-so-convenient. Next up to the mound is Logitech, who’s working on native Harmony support to start and stop Activities without picking up that remote control or smarthphone.

Logitech is beta testing Harmony remote control integration with Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Tap. With this integration, Harmony remote control users will be able to start and stop Harmony Activities using Alexa voice commands. If you own an Echo, we’re looking for people like you try out this new integration and provide feedback on their experience prior to full public release.

appsLike other smart television platforms, TiVo’s had something of a revolving door policy when it comes to over-the-top services. Apps come, apps go – dependent upon business relationship, cost of upkeep (on aging platforms), etc. While TiVo has managed to keep the Netflix and Amazon tentpoles around, others such as Yahoo Weather, Dominos, and Rhapsody have all joined the deadpool. And, now, Spotify has exited, stage left. At least as far as Virgin Media TiVo subscribers are concerned. Granted, most TiVo apps aren’t updated at the frequency of other platforms, like Roku, and are comparatively slow to get going. In fact, when Spotify launched here, I did a little performance test… which was downright depressing. Yet, a notable TiVo marketing hook has been the merging of linear content and online services. So hopefully Spotify’s departure is limited to the UK and more a reflection of Virgin’s strategy (sorry, friends) than a foreshadowing of things to come here in the US on retail TiVo boxes.

(Thanks, Randy!)

To deflect the bad news, ahead of what sounds like a number of interesting reveals next week, after crunching the numbers Microsoft has announced their intention to pass on the messy, potentially limited but free Xbox One DVR functionality:

After careful consideration, we’ve decided to put development of DVR for Over-the-Air TV on hold to focus our attention on launching new, higher fan-requested gaming experiences across Xbox One and Windows 10. We’re always listening to fan feedback and we look forward to bringing more requested experiences on Xbox One, Windows 10 and Xbox Live this year.


So, where does that leave us? Presumably, Xbox One live antenna television, via USB tuner, will carry on – including a 30-minute buffer and in-home streaming to iOS and Android devices. But those alluring recording capabilities, from multiple tuners will remain out of reach to this refocused gaming console. Fortunately, a pair of solid DVR alternatives exist in the headless Tablo and a resurrected TiVo Roamio OTA. HDHomeRun network tuners will soon also provide DVR options, in the form of software from manufacturer Silicon Dust and the developer behind Channels — although you’ll need a computer or NAS in the mix. Lastly, I wonder if Amazon might surprise us with something?


It was inevitable. After years of pining, as soon as I purchased additional, colorful Philips Hue BR30 bulbs, a white variant was sure to be released. And, sure enough, here we are. While FCC docs indicate we’ll shortly see a tunable white BR30, the lumens still clock in pretty low at a reported 680 (compared to the bright WiFi Lifx Wi-Fi bulbs that periodically call my name). As to timing, I’d guess these Hue White Ambience will hit retail in the next month or three and I imagine they’ll go for $30-40/pop. In which case, I may still come out OK given the 50% off outlet sale I recently availed myself of.


While perusing the merger-related deluge of regulatory filings for notable nuggets, we learn that TiVo is developing a “Next Gen UI” (in addition to reinforcing another consumer product is coming, which we’ll discuss next). For color, Virgin Media indicates they “will be updating the existing TiVo set-top box to make its menus slicker and more picture-based.” Vertical lists of text are inefficient in many cases and TiVo’s taxonomy could use some work. I’ve also long said the existing interface isn’t optimized for the appification of television, which probably dovetails with that “next gen consumer product.” Further, I wonder if user profiles are still on the roadmap and when voice control will hit.

Sadly, as is the reality in this space (re: Roku), advertising will likely see increased representation in TiVo’s new look. From CEO Naveen Chopra:

We have had over the last few years a number of different approaches to monetizing that. That continues to evolve so it’s a business that we are still investing in, but it’s one that’s certainly in our discussions where we will continue to be a big priority for the combined company going forward. We think there’s lot of opportunity there. The advertising business in TiVo frankly has been subscale; it’s been something we think has been important to show what the next generation of advertising and interfaces can look like

For reference, TiVo’s current HDUI bowed with the Premiere in 2010… yet still hasn’t been completed. Hopefully, they can knock out their guide transition within the 90 day wind-down period (which I’m hearing is the likely timeframe) and deliver a (complete) graphical interface refresh in 2016.

(Thanks Sam!)


While perusing the merger-related deluge of regulatory filing for notable nuggets, I came across two fairly significant TiVo developments that I’d previously missed… in that Virgin has contracted the company to power its next-gen 4k set-top box (that probably isn’t a traditional DVR) in the UK and has extended their partnership through 2020.

Virgin Media is TiVo’s largest customer, by far, and the continued relationship surely assuages investors (and Rovi) over the short-term. Although, you have to wonder, at what point does Virgin’s parent company, Liberty Global, go for presumably more favorable pricing and corporate synergies by integrating their own Horizon platform?

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