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.