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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

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Tivo Branded Experience on PC?:

» Tivo on PC? Bad Idea Dudes from Om Malik on Broadband
TiVo is trying to move its experience to the PC, which is an inherently a bad idea. Thomas Hawk: 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 exp... [Read More]

Tracked on March 11, 2005 03:47 PM

» What if Tivo's "Branded PC Experience" is Simply Tivo Without the Television? from Obvious Diversion
Ever since Tivo CEO Mike Ramsay announced a "TiVo branded PC experience" in their 4th quarter conference call, there's been speculation from TV Harmony, Thomas Hawk, Om Malik and others that this may mean a Tivo software PVR package that would com... [Read More]

Tracked on March 11, 2005 04:48 PM

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