Saturday, January 20, 2007

Why TiVo should kill other video solutions like AppleTV

Am I crazy am I proposing the obvious?  Read on . . .

A few facts about TiVo Series2:

  • It's already on my network.  If you have one, chances are good that it's on your network and if it's not, it could be for a $60 maximum investment in either a wired USB or wireless USB donlge (note: if you're going wireless and your network is (hopefully) using WPA2 for security, be sure to purchase the TiVo-brand wireless dongle)

  • TiVo already has software that interacts with your computer over my network -- the software is available for both Windows and OSX.  With either operating system TiVo can access and play iTunes music (non-DRM, of course) and access and display my pictures.

  • TiVo is a computer. My/your TiVo box has a processor, has a hard drive, and runs linux.

A few general facts:

  • All the manufacturers seem to be ratifying the 802.11 draft-n standard.  This is the standard that Apple is using and including in all of their products and all of the other players in the space (i.e., Linksys, Netgear, etc.) are using the same standard.

  • Rumor has it that Apple is going to open up its DRM software known as "FairPlay" to other  manufacturers.

  • Network gear manufacturers are selling relatively inexpensive devices that allow you to use your home's electrical system to transmit data at 100mbps.

  • Gigabit ethernet is being incorporated into most new products that have ethernet ports.

  • Broadband penetration continues to escalate and get less and less expensive.

  • Hard drive memory is very cheap.  Many manufacturers now sell enclosures with multiple drives inside and offer a variety of options for RAID configurations while Apple includes RAID software in the OSX operating system.

Let's put it all together:

TiVo should easily be able to modify their software to address the movie library in iTunes -- they have already figured out how to access the music, so from a programming perspective, it should not be too intensive.  It should be relatively easy for TiVo to produce either a 802.11 draft-n dongle and a gigabit ethernet dongle to raise network connection speed; the network owner will then have multiple high-speed options (see above) to connect to the TiVo which is important as video is bandwidth-intensive and the files are large.

In examining the details on AppleTV, it turns out that, just like the TiVo, the AppleTV box will have a processor and hard drive, meaning that the AppleTV will be storing and/or buffering some content on its hard drive in order to provide an uninterrupted video display.  Currently, although it's not supported by TiVo and voids your warranty, you can upgrade the hard drive in your TiVo to make it much larger than the stock configuration, which means that you could, say, double the size of your stock drive, dedicate 1/2 the space for movies/stream buffering and the other 1/2 of the space for television recording.

TiVo should be easily able to change the "Now Playing" interface in their software to display categories such as: "Music," "Pictures," "Recorded Shows," and "Movies."  Perhaps they could even design a more Front Row-style interface for accessing all of your media through the TiVo. 

Assuming that some of the changes to the device and software were made by TiVo, it could very easily function as your single media component, offering not only access tolive television and recorded television, but also to your movie library.  It would be nice to see an option to automatically store television shows that you want to keep back on a computer/NAS on your network as well to alleviate the somewhat painful process of having to semi-manually do that yourself.

One of the big drawbacks for TiVo Series 2 is that the best video connection it provides is s-video while devices like the AppleTV will be providing HDMI or DVI.  Furthermore, the TiVo Series 2 only outputs audio via standard RCA (i.e., red and white) while competitors such as AppleTV will provide optical out (note that HDMI connections carry digital audio and video over the single cable).  TiVo Series 3 solves many of the aforementioned issues, but the price of entry for Series 3 is currently $800 for the box.

Just my $0.02. 

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