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Dale Dougherty

Dale Dougherty

The Influence of TiVo

Padmasree Warrior, the chief technology officer of Motorola, said consumers now demand more from their televisions, largely thanks to TiVo, which has forced the cable companies to ask suppliers for more innovative set-top boxes. “Enough people are experienced with time-shifting that there’s a demand that the industry dynamics change,” Ms. Warrior said. New York Times, Wed January 17

How influential is TiVo? TiVo is at once a lesson in how slowly an industry responds to a new idea and also how a relatively small group of enthusiasts helped create a whole new category of device, which was tougher to commoditize than most people thought. It is now to set-top boxes what Kleenex is to tissues. It is what the iPod is among MP3 players.

We first published TiVo Hacks by Raffi Krikorian in 2003. Since then, TiVo has appeared to be on the ropes several times. I was a user of the first TiVo but when I switched to Comcast, they didn't offer it and I've used their rather limited Motorola box, which is TiVo like. I miss my TiVo. I'm not entirely sure why. It did just seem to work better. Over the years, they've added features so that you can take advantage of content that's on your computer. It was an intermediary between the closed world of my TV/cable/dish system and the open world of the Internet. Meanwhile, the Motorola box thinks of itself as a slave to the cable provider, who did indeed provide it to me (for a fee). It's always irritated me that they put USB and Firewire interfaces on the Motorola box but then disabled them. I don't understand that.

In retrospect, TiVo was really the first computing device to cross the divide into the audio-visual territory where my TV lives. Someone else can argue whether TiVo as a business has a bright future, but I don't think you can argue that it represented a change of control in the TV industry. It changed the cable companies and the networks, who all along wished it would just go away.

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Comments: 5

Douglas   [01.17.07 10:21 PM]

TiVo has begun to appear in market since the end of last year in China mainland,with a lower price,RMB 2,950,or US$37.There's an additional charge monthly of RMB 15,less than US$2 as service fee.

Douglas   [01.17.07 10:27 PM]

TiVo has begun to appear in market since the end of last year in China mainland,with a lower price,RMB 2,950,or US$370.There's an additional charge monthly of RMB 15,less than US$2 as service fee.

Brent Edwards   [01.18.07 01:49 AM]

I've had Tivo since their first product, and forwent HDTV until Tivo came out with their HD box. I chose to have Tivo with a standard picture rather than Comcast's poorly-designed PVR with HD.

The beauty of Tivo, and why you say that you missed it and don't know why, is because of their attention to usability and the user experience. They did as great a job as Apple did with their iPod in resonating with the user. Unfortunately, Tivo's marketing department didn't match Apple's, and Tivo floundered despite having produced one of the most profound improvements to the electronics consumer's experience in over a decade.

Tivo's evangelist's were agressive in their intent to convert, and I talked about a dozen of my friends into buying one, but ultimately there was something missing in Tivo's business approach. They had gold and they turned it into lead. Their inability to dominate in television products is one of the biggest disappointments in the history of media.

Leo Dirac   [01.18.07 01:39 PM]

TiVo is a fascinating home entertainment platform. As Media Center PC's continue to baffle consumers, (and Microsoft execs continue to be baffled as to why consumers don't understand how cool MCPC's are) TiVo has shown us all what can be done with a well-designed tightly-focused 10' UI.

It doesn't seem that really compelling non-TV content has taken hold on TiVo yet. Maybe that'll soon change when TiVo features on-demand music from Rhapsody, as was announced at CES recently.

dwadson   [01.19.07 07:58 AM]

TiVo and other commercial PVRs are always going to have trouble gaining widespread adoption because the industry revolves around advertising revenue. That revenue model starts to fall apart when people can watch programs whenever they want and skip the commercials. The TV networks are probably more scared of this type of technology than music and movie producers ever were. How can you justify charging top dollar for "primetime" advertising when you lose control over when that is?

Plus, they want to see the technology gimped so that they still retain control over the content that is sitting on your PVR. Harder for them to sell you a DVD box set when you already have all the episodes recorded digitally.

Personally, I love MythTV ( - all the power of a PVR without any of the restrictions of a commercial box. I can stream the content to multiple locations around the house with the use of inexpensive frontends. Movies, music, photos...even games can be put in it too.

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