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March 29, 2005

Video On Demand for PSP

Gamespot has more noise on the expanding role the Playstation Portable may have in the future. According to the article, when the PSP is released in South Korea in May, it will include a new piece of bundled software called the Network Utility UMD. With that running, users of the PSP will be able to:

Other networked services scheduled for PSP consumers in Korea include on-demand streaming music, on-demand streaming videos (including TV shows), e-learning options, and electronic books. SCEK and KT expect that they will be the first companies to provide a full online experience for the PSP user in any market.

It's unclear from the article whether this service just streams content wirelessly for real-time viewing or if you'll be able to save the result on a Memory Stick Duo card for later viewing. Assuming that you can save the results to the Duo card, this could be a great way to grab a few videos before hopping on a plane.

From my point of view, this seems like a better approach for video distribution than buying UMD discs of movies. I can't really see the financial justification of buying a PSP UMD movie for the same price as a DVD, but only be able to watch it on a small PSP screen. On the other hand, having the ability to download a video for a reasonable fee of $5 to watch while travelling makes a great deal of sense.

Since VOD service provider MovieLink already has licensed content from Sony Pictures, it's not a stretch to think that a service like Movielink would extend their service into the PSP. It's even less of a stretch to think that since Sony is already dipping its corporate toe into downloadable movies, it might try the same approach for the PSP.

Posted on March 29, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 25, 2005

Review: PSP Video 9

Along with many others, I waited in line patiently Thursday to purchase the new Playstation Portable (PSP), and thankfully with the many units on the shelf at the local Bestbuy, I didn't have to wait too long. Like others in line, I was eager to try out some of the new game titles, but I also was very eager to try out the Videora founder, Sajeeth Cherian's latest software project, PSP Video 9, a freeware software product that makes it easy to move video on to the PSP. While the PSP is cool product for gaming, PSP Video 9 also makes the PSP a good product for viewing videos.

Like his other product Videora, PSP Video 9's strength is in its elegantly simple user interface and its seamless execution. Installation and setup were a snap, and PSP Video 9 will, at the user's request, search for the PSP and configure the proper file paths automatically. In less than 5 minutes, you are good to go.

Copying video files to the PSP is really a two step process with PSP Video 9, and if you have a version of Videora installed, you can automate the whole process even further. The first step is transcoding, the process of taking a video file and converting it into a format the PSP will accept. While you can tweak the settings for transcoding (I set mine up to a profile called "Movie 0-2 hour"), all you really have to do is pick the file you want to transfer to the PSP, and Video 9 will automatically convert it to the proper format. PSP Video 9 handles most common video formats including avi, mpg, and decrypted dvd vob files. The transcoding process is time and cpu intensive, and in my case, it took my old P4 2.4Ghz laptop 2 hours to convert a single hour of video. Thankfully,you can queue up any number of videos in the software and let it work on them overnight.

The second step in the process is to move the resulting files to the PSP. I used a 512MB Duo Pro card (a note to PSP users, don't purchase the standard Memory Stick Pro memory cards because they don't work on the PSP), and with the "Movie 0-2 hour" profile, it appears that it will just fit a 2 hour movie within the 512MB card limit. The quality wasn't quite as impressive as the Spider Man 2 UMD movie that comes bundled with the first PSPs, but is almost as good and certainly very viewable on an airline flight. I tried transcoding both an Xvid encoded AVI file as well as simpler MPEG2 MPG file, and both worked flawlessly on the PSP with no audio synch problems or visual glitches. As I've found with other transcoding products, your mileage may vary depending on the source that created the original video files.

If you install a version of Videora, two other features are enabled which help automate the process. One in particular is the ability for PSP Video 9 to monitor a selected folder for new video files and automatically transcode them when found. The second feature checks for the presence of a PSP and will automatically move the transcoded video to the PSP. The features were designed to fully integrate with Videora, but according to some forum posts, you can use these features to automate moving video from other products like DVR software.

The only missing feature I wish PSP Video 9 had is the ability to automatically determine the proper quality profile based on the size of the PSP memory card. While you can do some rough calculations in your head to determine the profile, being able to specify file size as opposed to quality, a feature of other similar products like Gordian Knot, would really come in handy until the 1Gig and 2Gig Duo cards come down in price.

I've noticed a trend in the mainstream reviews of the PSP that it's a great gaming device but lacks good support for other media. PSP Video 9 radically changes that equation with a simple, seamless app to move video to the PSP. If you have a PSP and want to watch videos, PSP Video 9 is a must have.

Posted on March 25, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

Tivo/Comcast Deal from Comcast's Perspective

Thomas Hawk has an excellent post discussing what the value of Tivo could mean to Comcast's bottom line. It all comes down to retaining customers or reducing "churn", as the post puts it:

According to Macke the churn rate for DirecTV/TiVo users is .2% per month. "That's one full percentage point lower than the levels of churn for Comcast DVR
customers (to take one example and please note that this rate isn’t stated
openly by Comcast or any other cable cos… but it can be worked out from the
information they do give)."

Macke does some back of the envelope math and concludes that by reducing churn 1% that Comcast would save about $60 million per month – that's a lot of dough.

I think there were probably many reasons why this deal made sense for Comcast, but if it is accurate that customer acquistion costs are $800 for Comcast, keeping those customers without dropping rates is a key concern. It's no wonder that Comcast gives away free its OnDemand VOD service, something that gives cable operators an advantage over satellite. As long as you keep writing those digital cable checks each month and don't switch services, Comcast is happy. If it takes Tivo-lite to reduce that chance of switching, it's a small overall price to pay.

Posted on March 23, 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Longhorn and DRM

If you don't like TivoToGo and its DRM technology (copyright protection), you're really not going to like the next version of the Windows OS codenamed Longhorn, at least according to eHomeupgrade's article, "The Broadcast Flag is Nothing Compared to What Microsoft Has in the Works for DRM".

Thank goodness DRM technology wasn't available when they invented toilet paper, or we'd have to type in a password before use for fear that we might use it to scribble copyrighted Walt Whitman poems.

(Hat Tip: Digital Media Thoughts Newsletter)

Posted on March 23, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2005

PSP, Portable Media Player?

Thursday Sony will launch their much anticipated Playstation Portable (PSP) which many have said is the next generation of portable gaming. It also includes support for MPEG4 video encoded movies, as well as audio MP3 files. From the reviews I've read, it's been given high marks for gaming and been knocked for it's support for video. From the Washington Post review:

As a portable game machine, it's a peerless piece of work, combining sharp graphics, deep game play and easy online connectivity. As a multimedia gadget, however, it's a dud.

The review goes on to point out the lack of support Sony gave to make video and audio easy. For instance, it doesn't come bundled with a USB cable as well as a puny memory stick, incapable of storing video and audio files. It also lacks any PC software to make it easy to transfer video and audio to the PSP.

Sajeeth Cherian, the creative talent behind Videora, is trying to make it easier to use the PSP as a media device. His new freeware software, PSP Video 9, looks like something Sony should have bundled with the PSP. PSP Video 9 will automatically transcode a video file into the proper format for the PSP and transfer it. It also has integration with his BitTorrent software, Videora, so that you can download and transcode all automatically.

I've been wondering what my rationale would be to stand in line Thursday to get a PSP.

Posted on March 21, 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack

CableCard Deadline Extended

Mark this under the column "bad news", Build Your Own PVR.com is reporting that the deadline for cable and satellite operators to include support for CableCard has been extended an additional year (from 2006 to 2007). This is bad news.

Implementation of CableCARD technologies will definitely help create innovation by removing one of the big hurdles for DVR technologies, the set top box, and allow software and hardware companies to create new products without partnering with cable and satellite operators. No doubt that some companies stand to lose power if CableCARD is forced upon them, but in my mind, better to let us, the consumers have the power to choose.

Posted on March 21, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2005

More on the Tivo/Comcast Deal

Alex, from Democracy In Media, has an interesting post on the Tivo/Comcast deal which I think is very insightful. First, here is theory on what went down at Tivo:

"TiVo has had an internal power struggle between two camps for some time. One camp, led by Ramsay, felt that TiVo needed to focus on generating substantial (i.e. profitable) monthly fees on TiVo services, while (most importantly) retaining control over technology direction (i.e. ability to innovate). The second camp has been all about driving consumer growth through carrier channels (as it turns out, at almost any cost.) It appears that this internal struggle has run its course and the latter group has prevailed. I believe that this is a bad thing for TiVo’s customers, and therefore a bad thing for TiVo in the final analysis."

Given the news we've seen lately about Ramsay nixing a previous Comcast deal, his decision to step down as CEO, and now the Comcast partnership being resurrected, this two camp scenario seems likely.

Alex goes on to describe how Tivo is pulled into two directions:

Here’s the problem, TiVo is going to start to resemble a two-headed monster (and not in the positive sense of that term)…
  1. Head 1: Right now, TiVo gets substantial subscriber growth from the sale of DirecTiVo devices. These sales ultimately add very little to the bottom line. In fact, I would say that at $1/month, TiVo has been right to downplay the value of this revenue and this relationship. As with DirecTV, it appears that the Comcast deal should add substantial additional subscriber growth, although also at a price point less than $1. (I would anticipate that the final number represented the amount at which TiVo felt that they actually broke even on the deal. They have a good idea what that number is now having dealt at length with DirecTV.) Now, since they don’t make any money on the hardware (certainly in this case since they’ll be integrating with Moto boxes) and they won’t make any money on the service, this head is all about maximizing the leverage that a large customer base will afford with advertisers. For this head, advertisers are king, not customers.

  2. Head 2: While TiVo does not generate substantial growth from the sale of devices directly to consumers, these sales are their bread and butter. These sales are where TiVo generates all of its margin-rich revenue. While the cost of marketing has escalated, TiVo can actually make money on their current subscription fees if they decided to ramp down marketing expenditures considerably. As I believe Ramsay said in an IR call recently, “FY 2006 is all about $12.95 per month” (Well, not quite Mike…) Anyway, the point is that for this head, the goal is all about maximizing the value of the product for consumers to ensure people keep buying boxes, paying a monthly fee for service, and generally talking positively about the TiVo service. For this head, customers are king, not advertisers.

I think this has been going on for a long time in the pursuit to find a profitable strategy. Plans to put advertising on screen during fast-forwarding, as well as the big limitations put on extracting video from a Tivo, have more to do with building up partnerships then to provide additional value to customers.

Here's why he thinks it's bad for customers:

As time progresses, TiVo will be forced to focus more and more attention on pleasing folks like Comcast until eventually, their priorities change completely. As a result, I believe that the new priority list for TiVo is going to evolve into something more like this:
  1. What's important to Carriers,

  2. What's important to Advertisers,

  3. What's Important to Consumers.

As a consumer, I don't like this priority list. But either way, they need to resolve this issue or risk disappointing all their constituents (as TiVoToGo clearly demonstrated.)

I think he's right, but from my point of view, Tivo's options were limited by the market dynamics for DVR. Without working with carriers, Tivo has an uphill battle trying to sell DVRs into retail. Without a significant investment in marketing to generate sales, in all likelihood retailers would start dropping the product, further eroding sales. The four P's of Marketing, Product, Price, Placement (Distribution), and Promotion don't work so hot if you have no solution for 3 out of the 4 P's.

My hope for Tivo is to try and retain its innovation until there is a viable CableCARD solution, which if the technology is implemented removes the roadblock of the set top box. This is particularly important for HDTV transmissions where there is no inexpensive solution to encode HDTV analog signals. Until then, the Carriers have a significant advantage on the market, and we the consumers will continue to be the third priority.

Posted on March 16, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 15, 2005

What a difference a day makes

Via Thomashawk.com, Tivo has announced a deal with Comcast providing a customized version of their product for Comcast subscribers starting in mid-2006. As has been pointed out, Tivo has been struggling in retail to grow its customer base, and this deal should help grow it's subscriber numbers substantially in its quest to become profitable. Comcast is the biggest cable company in the US, so if the terms are favorable, this will mean a lot to the future of the company.

The undisclosed details of the deal make all the difference in how this deal will impact Tivo long term and Tivo certainly wasn't in the best negotiating position, but any deal is good news to the company in the short term. With all the negative attention focused on Tivo in the last few months, this deal will certainly help convince wary DVR purchasers that Tivo is here to stay, and that can only help sales moving forward. What a difference a day makes!

Posted on March 15, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005

Rebuttal to the Tivo Deathwatch

Megazone, from TivoLovers weblog, has a good rebuttal to all the commentary on the impending doom of Tivo. PVRBlog discusses his post and there is also a good dialog going on in the commments.

Megazone makes many valid points about Tivo. It would be a mistake to strictly look at last quarter with Tivo's $33M loss and $120M or so in the bank, and assume there will be a huge crator in Alviso 9 months or so from now. They undoubtedly will cut back their costs to help with their cash flow and a successful launch of a Cablecard product would help address their lack of HDTV offerings. They have time to change course.

I would quibble with the idea that Tivo is running an "operating profit" at this point and could be profitable if they wanted. Their service revenue is growing and runs on nice margins, but it can't be sustainable without selling more hardware, and the costs associated with the hardware business remains expensive. According to my back of the envelope calculations, every $1 that Tivo receives from the sale of hardware costs them $1.54. That's up from $1.21 a year ago. It will be interesting to see how that ratio will be effected with a standalone cablecard product. If the cost to add cablecard is low and Tivo can demand a premium for a standalone HDTV product, the hardware cost ratios will surely change to Tivo's benefit.

Megazone makes the point that most people don't own an HDTV yet. That's true, but I'd hazard a guess that HDTV owners are more likely to be DVR owners, and up until Tivo has a HDTV offering, there will be a certain abandon rate of existing Tivo owners who purchase an HDTV, as well as an impact on future Tivo sales from people looking for a DVR who already own a HDTV. The lack of a HDTV offering doesn't mean the imminent death of Tivo, but it certainly has a negative effect on its business.

The biggest positive impact for Tivo will be if their patents hold up in court. If they do have some court victories on broad technology patents and make it difficult for new and existing competitors, the calculus for Tivo changes dramatically. If they are easily circumvented, court victories will be short lived.

Without patent protection, Tivo's competitors will continue to improve upon their products, and NDS, Motorola, Scientific Atlanta, and Microsoft are all big enough that they can continue to spend research and development dollars to continue to innovate. The first to market advantage Tivo had in the beginning has been all but eroded at this point; the question really is whether Tivo can continue to stay ahead on the innovation curve.

At the end of the day, Tivo has some big problems facing it on the way to profitability and growth. Megazone reminds us that Tivo is still paying its electricity bills and will be for some time. Tivo has the time and resources to make changes to be a successful company; the hard part is figuring out what changes to make.

Posted on March 14, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2005

Tivo Branded Experience on PC?

The Tivo earnings conference call generated a lot of buzz around the web based on some statements CEO Mike Ramsey said during the call. Here are Thomas Hawk's notes on the subject:

Deliver a TiVo branded experience on the PC. Wow. This is huge. Although there are over 3 million TiVo units out there right now (about a million with broadband connection) there are vastly, vastly more PCs out there. "This platform (PC) is playing an increasing role in the management of home entertainment and TiVo intends to offer applications and services that capitalize on the PCs unique power and network capabilities as well as it's enormous reach and scale of install base," said Ramsay.

I have suggested in the past that TiVo needs to offer a software solution to run on the PC. They did not elaborate on what form this "TiVo branded PC experience" might take. Could this be a possible competitor to Microsoft's Media Center PC? Might TiVo begin to sell a stand-alone software package that could be installed on a PC with a TV tuner card?

Quite a few others have commented on this particular subject including Build Your Own PVR, PVRBlog, Ars Technica, SlashDot, and Om Malik, all with some interesting observations. I agree with Rampy of BYOPVR.com when he says he's "not holding his breath". Like Rampy, I'm going to keep the oxygen flowing in the near term.

There is no doubt that Tivo could do more on the PC platform to add value to its experience. PCs and large hard drives are cheap, as are network attached storage devices (e.g. file servers) like NasLite. Being able to save Tivo recorded programs to a server with TivoToGo is nice, but being able to move it back on to the Tivo for later viewing would be much nicer. If you couple that with the ability to access other media from a Tivo available on a PC network such as downloadable movie services, iTunes, and other content, that would be nice as well.

The head scratcher for me is the term "Tivo Branded Experience on a PC" which implies moving functionality over from the Tivo on to the PC. I hearken you back to a post I did last year called "Tivo and the Mustard Lesson":

For an example of the "revolving-world vision", a successful company that sells mustard might very well come to the conclusion that mustard is the reason people eat hotdogs, and maybe if their product is really great, there may be an element of truth to it. If the world revolves around mustard, the corporate theory goes, and people eat other foods in greater quantity, then the company can grow its revenues by expanding into other food groups. Unfortunately, it's only one delusional step away before they start selling mustard as an ice cream topping and wonder why people aren't buying it. The mustard lesson: don't try to be a new food group if you are really a condiment.

If I'm going through the trouble to rig up a PC as a DVR, is the Tivo interface really worth the $11.95 a month subscriber fee when I can use MCE 2005, BeyondTV, SageTV, MythTV, GBPVR, Meedio, or MediaPortal that all have no monthly service fee? Do I really prefer the hassles of TivoToGo's DRM (copy protection) over the standard MPEG2 files other products produce? Even if you could come up with a solution that has traction, does Tivo really want to compete directly with behemoth Microsoft that could easily give the technology away or incorporate it directly into a future version of the OS?

Tivo is great; don't get me wrong. The value, however, is in the entire hardware and software solution and the television experience you have using it from the comfort of your living room couch. It's easy to setup, use, and it's very reliable. That integration is very hard to do if you don't control the hardware specs, OS, and other software competing for resources.

When you look at Tivo in the retail DVR market, one has trouble finding a way for them to compete with lower cost, better integrated (at least integrated with a set top box) solutions coming from cable and satellite operators. I'm not sure if you take the Tivo software out of the box, you won't find the same thing in the software market: lower cost, better integrated products.

Posted on March 11, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2005

Tivo / Echostar Patent Lawsuit Advances

According to this press release, the Tivo patent infringement case against Echostar is slowly moving forward with the court denying motions to move the case out of Texas.

According to the press release, Tivo charges that Echostar infringed on it's "Time Warp" patent:

Key TiVo inventions protected by this patent include a method for recording one program while playing back another; watching a show as it is recording; and a storage format that supports advanced capabilities -- such as pausing live television, fast-forwarding, rewinding, instant replays, and slow motion.

As I mentioned before, I'm a layman when it comes to patents, but the "Time Warp" patent seems pretty broad in scope to me. If the patent gets validated with a few court victories, this seems like a big win for Tivo. It also looks like it's broad enough to stifle other DVR inovation, which isn't so good for DVR enthusiasts.

Posted on March 10, 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Down on Tivo/Apple

CNN Money has an article squashing rumors that Apple will be acquiring Tivo any time soon. Quoted in the article:

"I don't see any logic in Apple taking over TiVo and I don't think TiVo is dressing up for a sale right now," said David Miller, an analyst with Sanders Morris Harris. "This is clearly the most emotional, rumor-driven, highly ephemeral name I've ever dealt with."

If analysts were always right, I'd be retiring on my Webvan stock right now so I take it with a grain of salt along with my brown bag lunch.

Posted on March 10, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 08, 2005

SageTV 2.2.7 Released

Also via Build Your Own PVR.com, SageTV 2.2.7 has just been released which includes some bug fixes and performance improvements.

Posted on March 08, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Plextor ConvertX Goes Linux

Via Build Your Own PVR.com, Plextor ConvertX is now supporting the Linux platform with an SDK.

This is a very smart move for Plextor from my point of view, and will likely be a great addition to MythTV. The Plextor guys really working overtime to make this product successful and have formed good partnerships with Divx, SageTV, and EyeTV (for the Mac). Linux just makes the product all the more ubiquitous for DVR do-it-yourselfers.

Posted on March 08, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Cheaper Netflix Plan

Also via TVPredictions.com, Netflix announced a new cheaper, $11.99 plan as an option for users. According to the story, the plan will be:

The cheaper, $11.99 plan allows two discs at a time and a total of four per month.

I don't want to be a naysayer, but I'm not sure this plan will be very successful. I can understand that there likely is a demographic of people who watch one DVD movie a week, but I think many people would find the four movies a month limit not worth the trouble of setting up an account and not having the flexibility of picking a movie at one's whim.

I think a smarter strategy would have been to have the typical entry level plan (e.g. 3 DVDs at once) start at $11.99 and charge users extra (eg $6) if they take more than four movies out in a month. That gets the people who are resistant to $17.99 a month in the tent to try out the service, and if you believe in the Netflix model (which I do), they'll quickly turn into full paying members without having to do anything.

Posted on March 08, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

DirecTV CEO Resigns

Via TVPredictions.com, DirecTV CEO Mitch Stern resigned unexpectedly today.

Posted on March 08, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2005

Tivo and MCE Patent Discussion

PVRBlog has an interesting discussion going on whether Microsoft is violating Tivo's new patent. The patent in question is the process Tivo uses for auto-reversing a bit after a user fast-forwards to compensate for a user's reaction time. The comments in the post are pretty interesting to read and add a lot to the discussion.

I'm not a patent expert, but after reading the patent, it seems like the "innovation" of the patent isn't that it auto-reverses a bit at the end of the fast-forward, but that it records the amount the user corrects manually and fine tunes the auto-correction over time.

It's unclear to me whether MCE does this, or for that matter, whether the Tivo unit does this.

Posted on March 04, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 03, 2005

Thomas Hawk MCE Interview: Part 3

In case you are asking, yes, I do read more than ThomasHawk.com, but he's been posting some great stuff on DVR technology lately. Anyway, here's part 3 of his MCE interview.

Posted on March 03, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tivo vs MCE vs SciAtl

Via ThomasHawk.com, EdBott.com has a great comparison of three different DVRs he has in his house: a Series 1 Tivo, a Microsoft MCE computer, and a Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD. While some may quibble with some of his results, it's a really good read comparing the products feature by feature.

Posted on March 03, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2005

Review: Videora

With the thousands of people who publish video from around the world using BitTorrent and RSS, wouldn't be nice if there was an application as simple to use as Tivo for monitoring and downloading shows? Videora, developed by Sajeeth Cherian, a university student at Carleton University, is just such an application, and he did a great job simplifying the complex process of finding and downloading video content.

Think of Videora as a Tivo for BitTorrent. The interface allows you to set up a simple search for finding video content and the software will automatically scan various RSS channels for new items and record any matches. Each search can fall into two categories: the Want List or Season Tickets. Want List items will find new content that are available, but will wait for you to tell it before downloading. The Season Ticket items on the other hand will not only find new content but automatically download the content as well.

Videora's appeal is its simplicity, and after installing it for the first time, you might look around the application wondering where all the menus, dialogs, and other user interface components are. The answer is that Sajeeth only added what is needed by most people, and the product shines because of it. The user interface is simple and elegant.

In just a few minutes, I created a Season Ticket to record each week's episode of Lost in HDTV quality. By the morning after each new episode is aired, my computer (attached to a DSL connection) had downloaded the episode and it was ready for viewing. The software did all the heavy lifting of sorting through RSS feeds, finding a good match given the criteria I gave it, and telling my BitTorrent client, Azureus, to download the appropriate file.

Installing Videora is a simple process, requiring very little in the way of setup. To get BitTorrent working, you may need to change your firewall to open up the appropriate ports, but I found the installation and user guide very straightforward. Videora comes bundled with BitComet for downloading shows, but it works with many different BitTorrent clients that you may prefer including BitComet, Azureus, ABC, and Shareza.

Videora works best, as does BitTorrent, on video content that is popular. The more people who want or already have the content, the faster the download becomes. Videora uses a database of titles called the Open Videora Server to help categorize video content, but it will have a difficult time finding esoteric shows that few people know. Since RSS sends out information on new content that has been published, it doesn't do a good job searching for older content that doesn't come across the RSS wire.

Leaving behind the legalities of BitTorrent and downloading television shows, I can see this product appealing to people who don't have access to cable television, who want shows unavailable in their area (eg someone living in Country X wanting a show from Country Y), or who want better quality recordings (e.g. HDTV) than currently are available with their service provider.

Besides the overall legality of downloading shows via Videora, my only knock on Videora is the free trial, which has several features removed. As with other products, I think a better hook for potential users is a full version that works long enough to get users excited before the faucet gets turned off and you're expected to pay. At $22.95, it's a good value and a fair price for the software.

Videora is an innovative product that shows the potential for this sort of technology. Time, and likely a lot of litigation, will tell if BitTorrent will be a valid technology for getting television content, but if it survives the MPAA assault, Videora is a good place for new users to start.

Posted on March 02, 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Part 2 of Thomas Hawk's MCE Interview

Thomas Hawk posted the second part of his four part interview with some of the MCE program managers. Part 2 talks about the role of partnerships in this market.

Posted on March 02, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Mac DVR

No, this isn't breaking news that Apple bought Tivo. However,there is a new interesting DVR product for the Macintosh called EvolutionTV from Miglia which will be released later this month for $280. Via PVRBlog, the EvolutionTV product will have a USB2.0 connection and have hardware video compression to MPEG2, MPEG4, and Divx.

Competition is always a good thing for consumers and it looks like more and more vendors are starting to see the Mac platform as a good place to create products.

Related Info:

Plextor ConvertX for Macintosh

Posted on March 02, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 01, 2005

Tivo Awarded New Patents

Tivo announced that it was awarded several new patents both domestically and internationally. Among those patents were it's fast-forwarding technique of backing up a little to correct for reaction time, as well as some other user interface features unique to Tivo. Tivo also announced that it has an exclusive license for what they call the Goldwasser Patent, the earliest patent known in regards to DVR technology.

It's hard to say how much these patents are worth until they start enforcing them. From my experience with patents, if Tivo tries to enforce a patent, they'll likely go after the weakest sheep in the flock, hoping to gain a precedent that they can use against bigger companies. Since litigation is expensive, we'll see if they start pursuing it as a strategy.

Posted on March 01, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Comments Turned Back On

We've turned our comments back on, hopefully changing the system enough to fool all but the most motivated spammers. Users will now be required to type in a number when they comment in a new field of the form. For instance, the field may say "Type five hundred, twenty five" and you'll need to type "525" into the field. While not rocket science, hopefuly it is just enough trouble to do programmatically that spam-bots out there won't change their code to handle it.

Sorry for the inconvenience while the system was down and we always encourage everyone to post comments and questions.

Posted on March 01, 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sage HDTV Buying Advice

Via DigitalMerging.la, Engadget has a nice primer on HDTV and it's many different technologies that might effect your buying decision. It's the first of a multi-part series, but I've already learned an important blogging tip from the article: don't mess with Bea Arthur.

Posted on March 01, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MediaPortal .1.0.9 is out

Build Your Own PVR is reporting that a new version of MediaPortal has been released. I've been using an older version for a month or so as a front-end for our video and audio library, and I have it on my to-do list to do a review of it as a full PVR solution.

It's a nice product that continues to get better and better and the user interface is pretty slick.

Posted on March 01, 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack