January 25, 2005
Comments Temporarily Turned Off
We've been getting hit hard by comment spammers so until we come up with a fix to prevent spam, we're going to turn off comments. We think comments are big a great part of this site, and rest assured, we'll be turning them back on once we come up with a solution to the problem.
If any of our readers happen to practice voodoo, please stick a few needles in your spam dolls for us.
January 21, 2005
Scientific Atlanta Sees Strong DVR sales
Via TVPredictions.com, Scientific Atlanta, one of the big manufacturers of DVR and set top boxes for cable operators, saw higher earnings this last quarter based on robust sales of DVRs. According to the AP:
Scientific-Atlanta shipped 449,000 digital video recorders, up 72 percent from a year ago and 13 percent from the first quarter. Of this total, 193,000 were high-definition DVRs, up 29 percent from the first quarter.
200,000 HDTV DVRs is a big number, but I wouldn't be surprised if by the end of the year, the majority of DVRs sold are of the HDTV variety. If someone buys an HDTV, I don't think they'll be satisfied with a DVR that won't record HDTV. Couple that with Comcast laying down the guantlet with an inexpensive monthly HDTV DVR which must attract some business away from satellite operators, and it's only a matter of time before the satellite operators follow suit and drop their price on HDTV DVRs as well.
January 20, 2005
More TivoToGo Impressions
Thomas Hawk has more impressions of TivoToGo including a roundup of other viewpoints around the web. After reading Thomas' post, it's fair to say that it's getting a mixed reaction for the speed of transfers and the hassle of the DRM technology.
On the other hand, PVRBlog points out that there are some other new features including a new web server built into the Tivo OS for accessing the data directly from a PC via a web browser.
January 18, 2005
OffTopic: Need a GMail Account?
This has nothing to do with home entertainment, but we've got some free google GMail accounts if people are interested in trying it. They are relatively easy to get these days and I'm sure the "public beta" phase will soon expire opening the door for anyone to get a free account on their own, but if you are interested in getting one in the meantime, send us an email (tvharmony @ gmail.com) and we'll gladly send you a free invite.
There's a limited number of free invites, but hopefully enough to satisfy any of our readers who don't already have a gmail account and would be interested in getting one.
TivoToGo First Impressions (ObviousDiversion.com)
I'm eager to try it, but it's good to know that other people are starting to get the update downloaded on their Tivo. My update can't be far behind.
MCE Extenders: HP vs XBox
By way of ThomasHawk.com, The Nears has a great detailed comparison between two leading Microsoft MCE media extenders. While the comparison doesn't draw a final conclusion, it does rate each product on a variety of characteristics.
If I were shopping for a media extender, I'd definitely check this article out before heading out to the store.
Is Apple Working on a DVR/VOD solution?
Is Apple working on a DVR solution for the Mac, including an iTunes style download service? MacHTPC.com has some interesting rumors that something might be in the works.
This seems like such a natural progression for Apple after getting into the iPod and music business. The missing piece of the business is inexpensive hardware that can sell well at retail in the consumer electronics solution; just something that the MacMini can now do.
BTW, machtpc.com is a great new site in general, and I'll be adding it ot my links section as soon as the site goes through it's next update.
January 17, 2005
The Cost of Saying No
The New York Times writes today that Mike Ramsay, CEO of Tivo, had the opportunity to do a partnership with Comcast last summer. According to the Times:
Yet, at the last minute, Michael Ramsay, TiVo's chief executive, decided to pull out of the deal. Comcast was not going to pay TiVo enough money or give it enough control over its service, Mr. Ramsay told the company's board, according to people involved in those discussions.
Om Malik and PVRBlog, among others, point out just what a huge catastrophe that was for Tivo, and I couldn't agree more. This is a classic business example of not factoring in the costs of saying no, and while it will make good fodder for business schools and new MBA students, it was likely a bad turning point for Tivo.
I've watched this play out from both sides of the fence. A big company wants to license a technology from a smaller company and offers what appears to be a a jaw-dropping low bid for the technology. The smaller company looks at the bid and walks away from the deal, factoring the current price of the technology versus the asking price. It's easy to calculate doing a deal with a larger company versus the status quo, but unless the big company isn't serious about entering the market, the status quo is about to change radically. The question really should be, what is the true cost of saying no?
In Tivo's case, the cost includes giving your biggest competitor Microsoft an easy entry to the market. The cost also involves the lost sales from Comcast users who will try renting a unit from their cable company before purchasing a DVR from a retailer. The cost includes losing marketshare and lost ad revenues. Tivo might have not have been able to afford to do a Comcast deal, but I'm not sure they were any better able to afford not doing a Comcast deal.
No one really knows all the details of the Comcast deal, and likely the terms were probably pretty lousy for Tivo. Perhaps Tivo did all the right calculations, saw the market shifting, and came out with the right decision. One must wonder if that were so why we didn't hear about the Tahiti plan last August?
January 12, 2005
Tivo CEO Resigns
Tivo CEO Mike Ramsay announced his resignation today, saying he'll stay as CEO until a successor is found. He'll also stay on as Chairman of the Board. That's going to be the big story of the day for the DVR blogging community for sure, and I'll update this post throughout the day to get other reactions.
Before looking at what other people have written, I wanted to put down my own thoughts on the news. It's clear that when there's a change at the top at this point in Tivo's history, it can't be good news for Tivo. I'm not counting Tivo out yet, but you can only assume there will be major changes ahead for the company.
Tivo is in a bind financially. It needs more revenue growth to stop the bleeding of cash, and it looks like the board can't see it happening with the direction they are taking. MSOs (e.g. cable and satellite operators) are moving in to the DVR space in a big way, and they have some big advantages. If a consumer has an HDTV, the DVRs are significantly cheaper from the MSOs. If you have a set top box, the MSOs also win because the Tivo standalone units can't record one show while watching live tv. Tivo works, looks, and smells better but it's a tough sell for the bulk of consumers that want to try DVR technologies for the first time and are faced between a $5 a month lease or buying a Tivo and paying $12.99 a month.
On the other side of the coin, Microsoft has shown at CES that it's coming from the other direction, focusing on technologies where it can leverage itself as the technology provider to MSO and consumer electronics company. The clear vision of Microsoft is that it wants to be the technological glue between home devices. They've spent a good deal of R&D dollars on DRM (digital rights protection) which MSOs and content creators hold dear, along with a strategy for moving content into the home, around the home, and out to mobile devices. Everything has to play the Microsoft way, but if you are a consumer that doesn't care about the DRM limitations, it's an easy way to ensure compatibility between devices. While TivoToGo is a tactical improvement for Tivo, Microsoft sees this whole web of technology as a strategy to win at home.
The harbinger of what is to come at Tivo will center on who the board picks to replace Ramsay. It will either be a technology innovator like a Steve Jobs, looking for an innovative way out of the Tivo bind, or alternatively, it will be a turnaround guy, looking to make Tivo look better to a potential corporate merger. My bet is that it will be the turnaround guy because that is the safe bet for investors trying to re-coup some of their investments. If the CEO looks like a guy who has hopped from company to company every couple of years, his/her name doesn't strike much of a bell, and he/she looks more like they came from the IRS than from a circus, it's a turnaround guy.
If he owns the Dallas Mavericks, then the pick will be the technology innovator trying to take the Apple road. If I were the Tivo board, I'd have someone flying down to Texas to watch some basketball, drink an overpriced beer, and have a little chat.
Regardless of the direction Tivo takes, I wouldn't be all that concerned that my Tivo will stop receiving it's daily programming updates. I think it will be around in one form or another. The next CEO will be a good clue which form Tivo will take.
Other opinions (updated throughout the day):
TivoBlog.com million dollar question
Thomas Hawk's "About Friggin Time" OpEd
PVRBlog.com's Post (Thanks for the link, Matt!)
TVPredictions.com Post-Prediction Scorecard
The Motley Fool's Advice
January 11, 2005
Mac mini debuts
Apple introduced their new low cost $499 Macintosh server today. If you visit PVRBlog, you'll see it's generated some buzz for being an interesting way to build an HTPC (Home Theater PC). It's got a 1.25Ghz (or 1.5Ghz) G4, easily powerful enough to crunch video streams, as well as a 9200 Radeon graphics card with DVI,VGA, SVideo, and Composite out. It's only weakness is the small hard drive (80Gigs) that comes standard. The small form factor definitely gives it a little extra in the cool factor category.
I'm somewhat surprised that iLife (that set of software products created by Apple and bundled with their hardware) hasn't come out with a new product in their lineup. Let's see: iTunes, iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto; What's the missing title for a complete HTPC computer? Wouldn't iDVR (or iPVR as rampy of byopvr.com would say) fit in nice with that set of products? Throw in a cool service like iTunes for DVD rentals using Apple's DRM technology, and you might actually have a nice little revenue stream there.
I'm still trying to catch up on the CES/Macworld news, but I can't let the upcoming Hauppauge Portable Video Player (PVP) slip by without comment. It's on the high-end price-wise ($699) but it comes with tons of file format support including MPEG4/Divx/Xvid, Microsoft WMV, and Apple Quicktime. It sports a 20Gig disk and whopping 7" 16:9 screen (big for a PVP player; typical for a Portable DVD Player). It's expected to ship Q1 of this year.
At that price, I think they might have wanted to separate themselves from the competition by adding a larger drive into the mix, but it will be interesting to see if this product will do well. Other PVPs tend to look more like MP3 players with video support, focusing on size, but the Hauppauge model seems to follow a different path.
(Hat Tip: Build Your Own PVR)
January 10, 2005
Interview with Videora Author
After watching his college roommate continually scouring the internet in search of anime videos to download, Sajeeth started working on a better solution:
"After searching some of his favorite anime BitTorrent sites, I came across one site which offered an RSS feed. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a simple format that is used by web sites to send article headlines, summaries and links back to full-text articles on the web. Anyways, this RSS feed was special, instead of linking to articles on the internet, it linked directly to the very BitTorrent files that these sites linked to on their web pages. By simply scanning the RSS feed and downloading the desired BitTorrent files it linked to, I concluded that he could download his anime automatically without ever having to surf to an anime BitTorrent website again.
After discovering this RSS feed I began to envision a product. Some thing simple, which allows users to find shows easily and a couple clicks later (after the shows are added to their "season tickets") would automatically download these shows to their hard drives in the background. With this, users wouldn't have to look for certain video to download, because the video they want would already be on their hard drive. Thus giving them free time to do more interesting things, rather than scour the same old websites. This seemed like a killer idea with more potential than just quieting my roommate so I began to develop this idea into computer software. Along the way, I added a few other features including the ability to aggregate video files into "want lists" which allows users to easily manually download videos of interest. Needless to say, my roommate doesn't complain to me anymore."
New NasLite+ Product
ServerElements.com, the makers of NasLite (TVHarmony Review), a very elegant linux floppy distribution that changes an old clunker PC into a file server, just announced a new NasLite+ which increases throughput and simultaneously serves up files in both ftp, SMB (Windows Shares), NFS (Linux Shares), and HTTP. NasLite+ can be downloaded for $24.95.
The only consideration with the original NasLite and NasLite+ for video libraries is a 4GIG file size limit for SMB (Windows Shares). If you can live with that, $24.95 is a real bargain to turn that old PC into a whirling fast file server.
January 05, 2005
HP Smacks MCE2005
Via eHomeUpgrade, an article in the New York Times suggests that HP will come out with their own media PC called the "HP Media Hub". As opposed to other HP media PCs that come bundled with Microsoft's MCE 2005, HP will be based on linux.
This has to sting:
Carleton S. Fiorina, the chief executive, said that by using Linux, rather than Windows, Hewlett can reduce the cost of the device, which has not been set, she said.
"The real motive is not the cost," she added, but "the ease of use and simplicity."
Sirius to offer video
Satellite radio provider, Sirius, is planning to add video as part of it's offering in 2006. According to AP, the content will be targeted at children as a result of the increase in video equipment in automobiles to entertain kids. Sirius has struck a deal with Microsoft to use their technology for mobile products.
Chief Executive Officer Mel Karmazin said:
"We will take the DVD experience to the next level, offering the best content easily available to families and consumers."
Having two young daughters, the portable dvd player has been a godsend for long trips, and while the devil is in the details, this kind of service makes sense to me.
January 04, 2005
Humax All in One Rumor
Via TVPredictions.com, Humax will introduce a television with a DVD-R and Tivo service built right into the television. The television will be a 26" LCD flat screen and the MSRP on the unit will be $2,499.
It sounds a bit overpriced to me, and like such inventions as the spork and the combination hat and beer holder, some things are better left as components. That's especially true if one of the components requires a monthly service fee like Tivo.
PVR150 Driver for Linux
Videora BitTorrent Software
Via PVRBlog, there's an interesting new piece of software called Videora for finding and downloading television shows off the Internet. It scans RSS feeds and will track what television shows are available for download over the Internet.
Over the holidays, I had a chance to do some trial downloads using BitTorrent (although not using Videora) and it's becoming increasingly easy to find and download television shows. A trial case for me was the show Desperate Housewives, which my wife and I missed while it was getting a lot of buzz around town. With a simple DSL connection, I was able to download the first 6 episodes, recorded in HDTV format, overnight. The remaining issue is getting those downloads to play on a television, and while that is difficult to do for a Tivo-only household, it's trivial to do if you already have a MCE2005 or home built DVR.
Just for kicks (and because my wife was a fan), I tried doing another test of episodes of Northern Exposure, which I don't think is broadcast as re-runs anymore. Finding episodes of old shows turned out to be problematic via BitTorrent (although another package eMule, was able to find some episodes online).
My take on the technology is that at the moment, this solution is pretty good for catching a show that you forgot to record, but the group memory of older shows is lacking. With MP3 downloading, people keep content virtually forever, but the same can't be said for television programming.
Of course, there are legal considerations about this technology and undoubtedly there will be a lot of litigation. It's hard for me to consider downloading a show that was broadcast on a channel that I pay to receive any different than having it directly recorded on my Tivo. It gets a little less ethical to download a show like the Sopranos when one doesn't pay for HBO, and downloading a DVD movie seems a clear violation of copyright law.
It will be interesting to see how this evolves.
Om Malik Has More on Videora
Tivo Investors Briefly Happy
Tivo investors were briefly happy yesterday with the stock jumping up 5% on the news that TivoToGo was released. Unfortunately, the party didn't last too long; today shares are trading lower than where they started before the news broke.
January 03, 2005
MCE 2005 Wiki
Via the erudite Thomas Hawk, there's a new resource for Microsoft Media Center Edition users called the MCE 2005 Wiki. It's a great resource for finding all things MCE and I'll be adding it to my blogroll during the next site upgrade..
With three different Weather plugins to choose from, it looks pretty comprehensive.
TivoToGo is here!
Well, sort of. ObviousDiversion.com has the full scoop and it's been officially released, but could take a few weeks before the update has been officially downloaded to everyone's Tivo. DVD burning will require a paid upgrade to Sonic MyDVD. To get a leg up on the huddled masses, you can ask for a priority download here.
- How to get TivoToGo
- ObviousDirersion.com's article
- Wired's article
- PVRBlog's Comments on TivoToGo
- Via PVRBlog, some comments from Tivo on their community forum
- Build Your Own PVR.com's take
- Thomas Hawk's Post
- Slashdot's Discussion
- TivoBlog's Post with some additional links
- DealDatabase discussion (for people who worry what will happen to their already hacked Tivo)
(This list of links to be updated throughout the day)