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What About TiVo?

I have to confess, I’ve been a TiVo fanboy since the mid-1990s.  I love TiVo.  I started with the Series 1, then when I moved to DirecTV I was thrilled to get that Sony DirecTivo Series 1.  Then I moved to the Series 2 DirecTivo, and eventually the HR-10 250 HD DirecTivo (I got device #55, and spent a small fortune to pre-order it and be near first in line).

Since DirecTV had horrible compression on everything HD, including the locals, I needed to do something about it.  Fortunately, I live in a location that has very strong over-the-air (OTA) signals from all the local stations.  And the HR-10 250 HD DirecTivo had a convenient OTA port, and software that integrated it seamlessly with the DirecTV channels.

Then I got disgusted with the TiVo/DirecTV relationship, and the crippled version of the software we were being handed.

So I briefly jumped to Comcast and the HD Tivo Series 3, and learned of the fun with Cable Cards.  Fortunately, FiOS was quickly working it’s way through my area, so I was able to jump again to FiOS.  And for what it’s worth, they seem to have the Cable Card thing down much better than Comcast.

I expanded my TiVo collection to a couple Series 3s, and a handful for Tivo HDs, in parallel with my ever expanding HD TV collection (including my Home Theater – but that’s for another blog).  And later I added the TiVo Premiere, but remain disappointed at their lack of updates to the software.

And all this time I’ve kept my OTA HD antenna for recording locals.  First because of the awful quality of locals from DirecTV.  Then because Comcast couldn’t keep a signal up for more than a week at a time.  And then just because I could.

And that’s where I’ve been ever since.

So… what about TiVo?

Right, that’s the question.  And I guess it’s best answered by saying this:  TiVo Premiere.

After 10+ years of the same user interface.  After 5+ years of almost no new functionality.  After the failed HME (an app store before it’s time).  After the lack of any multi-room streaming to handle the increasing rate of copy-protected shows.  After all this, TiVo rolls out the Tivo Premiere – a Tivo HD with a painfully slow Adobe Flash interface.  And this over only about 20% of the screens.

Seriously?  A not-even-beta quality software release, incomplete, painfully slow, and no new features to speak of?  Other than the “promise” of a new platform for, yes, another app-store?  And now, almost a year later, and it’s still basically the same thing?

And yes, there’s a cool aggregated search capability, but it’s really incomplete.  It only searches cable/OTA, YouTube, Amazon, and Blockbuster.  Not even the hundreds of web-channels that you already integrate in the semi-buried part of the (old) UI?

I guess I’m losing any faith that TiVo will actually do anything innovative.  The new UI, while nice, is nothing all that new (even if it were usable).  And there’s no new functionality, as there hasn’t been for basically 10+ years.  Yes, they’ve been late to the game with NetFlix, Amazon, Pandora (why?), and next Hulu, but they do them all far worse than the many other boxes out there that also support these services.

Wait – Are you saying…?

Yes, that’s what I’m saying.  I am reluctantly looking to eliminate my TiVos.  I’m sure they’ll stick around for a while, if for nothing else than as OTA DVRs, but they’re really not good for much else.  Almost any other media player out there now has a much better NetFlix interface, and no one uses BlockBuster, and I’m still not sticky with Amazon VOD yet.

So sadly, that’s where I am with TiVo.  This could turn around if TiVo gets competitive again and offers a box that streams room-to-room, and streams from multiple on-line services with a snappy UI, and provides a cross-service search that actually works.

But I seriously doubt that will happen (even with the EchoStar and Verizon lawsuit money).

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