TiVo (almost) anything

TiVo is lighting lots of little fires under the explosion of TV. Two new blazes today: Saul Hansell reports that with the purchase of $25 software, users will be able to watch video from their computers on their TVs, via their TiVos — competing with Apple’s coming iTV. And TiVo is announcing a deal with One True Media to allow you to send your videos to a friend’s TiVo.

Except convergence ain’t easy. Hansell outlines the issues: To download and play things directly off the TiVo box, you have to convert video to MP2. The new TiVo setup forces you to download the video to your PC and play it to the TV from there; this widens the scope to MP4, QuickTime, and some Windows Media. But it cannot play Flash — which is what YouTube and other such services use — and cannot play movies with copyright protection. It’s Beta-VHS hell multiplied tenfold.

The simple fact is that we want to watch our stuff wherever we want to watch it. So the consumer electronics, media, and internet industries need to get their acts together to enable this. I fear this will take time. Look how long it is taking to get a 39-cent iPod plug built into car stereos.

  • Have I missed the part where Apple get to use “iTV” without running into serious trademark issues?

  • You can already do this, for free, with the Tivo software available today.

    Install the most recent version of Tivo Desktop, the version that allows you to pull videos off your computer.

    Download the video, drop in “My Documents/My Tivo Recordings” (only MPEG2 videos will work, but you can use converters to go from AVI and Quicktime to mpg).

    Start Tivo Desktop’s media sharing and look at your Tivo’s now playing list. At the bottom there should be a folder for your computer. Open it up and play the videos inside.

  • CZ

    Jeff, good post. I linked to this (and with the other TiVo chatter) over at Verizon’s Poliblog.

  • Adam is right, It’s already on Tivo. I guess the Tivo marketing machine has finally caught up with what their R&D group gave away 9 months ago.
    But this is not streaming video, which you get from a Slingbox (or Sony LocationFree). Here is where digital media goes. You have already bought the “rights” to HBO, your TV line up, your CD’s. Tivo is IP in and Sling is IP out. When some smart cracker puts these together with a great Tivo Interface – Home Internet TV stations – I’m ready for it. mrb

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  • I don’t think Tivo charging for the ability to easily convert video is the big issue here. People will pay, because they like convenience – and most of the tools available for video conversion right now are not convenient at all.

    More troubling is the fact that Tivo uses it’s Tivocast feature to sign up TV studios as content partners. Tivo tested this feature with Rocketboom – and it was revolutionary: For the first time you could subscribe to a video podcast and watch it on your livingroom TV without even touching your PC.

    But exclusive content partnerships are not the way to go. People don’t want more content from TV studios on their TV – they get that alread. They want podcasts, unscripted stuff, niche programming. And they don’t want Tivo to decide for them what they can watch.

    So instead of becoming the new middleman, Tivo should just open the floodgates and allow it’s subscribers to add any video podcast to their list of subscriptions.

    Doing exklusive content deals might seem like a sound business strategy for Tivo in the short term. But in the long term it will transform them into one of the control-freak gatekeepers that Tivos users wanted to get away from when they bought the device in the first place.

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