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Nothing But Net: R.I.P. My TiVo (Dec. 25, 2006 – May 21, 2010)

The past two weeks have brought two fairly large developments to the world of TV consumption, the world TiVo cares very much about: Google TV and the next generation of Apple TV.

Google TV, announced at the company’s annual I/O conference, is exactly what its name implies: Google for TV. Imagine a giant search bar hovering near the top of your TV you can use to find content: channels, videos, episodes, shows. True, you need a cable provider to search channels, but compare what they offer to what the Internet offers. Unless you really want to watch the Knicks (and if you do: why?) anything you need to see you’ll find. On top of that, Google TV is free for consumers to use and developers to license, so barriers to entry are non-existent.

Apple TV has been around for some time—it debuted in 2006 and went on sale a year later—but really has limited functionality. It serves as a media extender of sorts to bring your entire iTunes library to a TV screen as well as browse YouTube for video and Flickr for photos. It’s very much a niche product in its current state—so much so Apple regularly describes it as “a hobby”—but recent rumors peg the ATV for a massive reimaging using the iPhone OS, with cloud-based storage and a $99 price point. That’s more expensive than Google TV, although you’ll need either a new TV or additional device to use GTV, but Apple rarely enters a space it doesn’t fully intend on owning or at the least, turning upside-down.


The question here isn’t whether Google’s offering be better than Apple’s, at least not yet. The question is whether TiVo will continue to serve a purpose we need, and the answer is “no,” not just because Google and Apple are so consumed with battling each other in different markets they will innovate the hell out of everything but also because TiVo’s idea is an old one.

To use a TiVo, you tell it to record something and it records it. This can be done from your TV, a computer or even your phone, but it has to be done before the show airs. If you don’t? Sorry, hopefully there’s a re-run. We don’t like this—the idea of watching something on someone else’s schedule does not work in 2010. High-speed Internet, On-Demand viewing, streaming content—these are expected. If you tell me the only way I can watch the show everyone is talking about is by having told my TiVo to record it before I knew everyone was talking about it, I’ll make some hilarious joke like, “Hey, 2004 called, it wants that idea back,” and go watch whatever it is on Hulu.

What is TiVo Inc. doing about this? The company launched a new box—TiVo Premiere—earlier this year. It boasts a significantly redesigned interface and myriad options to acquire content: access to Amazon, Blockbuster, Netflix and the search functionality of Google TV and Apple TV. All for the low, low price of…well, the conversation ends once you say “price.”

Existing customers receive the same great treatment I received during my phone call: TiVo decided to blacklist existing boxes from any of the new software. Essentially, if you have any TiVo box that’s not the Premiere, your device is at the end of the road. So, time to shop for a new device. This puts existing customers in the same pool as new customers, which makes the question for both the same: Why buy a TiVo when two of the biggest companies in the world are on the cusp of offering cheaper, more feature-rich undeniably better options?

Screens are merging—TV screens, phone screens, computer screens. The companies that are going to provide content for these screens need to be moving forward rather than sitting down. TiVo isn’t doing that. Instead of harnessing the Internet, it’s charging for it. Good luck with that.

I’m in the midst of resurrecting my TiVo via some dark magic and a new hard drive, more to triumph over that jackass from tech support than anything else. Am I bitter? Oh for sure I am. But I had serious loyalty to my piano-black box, to the point of ignorance. You can bet the dollar sign above the “4” key on your keyboard I’ll never give TiVo Inc. another cent.

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