Monday, June 4, 2007

Tivo Experience

Not everyone may know about Tivo. But for those people who do have Tivo, they will swear by the product and proclaim that Tivo has truly changed their life.

What is Tivo?

Tivo is the leader and innovator of a category of products called DVRs, Digital Video Recorders. Essentially, a DVR is similar to the old VCR, but shows are saved in a digital format in the DVR's internal hard drive (and with a capacity normally much better than a VHS tape). But the features of DVRs go beyond that.

In the Tivo (which I consider the best of all the DVRs, since I am a user of Tivo), there is a channel guide with program information which is updated on a regular basis. Users of Tivo can select programs through the guide, or they can search for the program. Once they find the program, a user could just press the button to record. No more having to manually set up Start Time, End Time, Channel. (No more Blinking 00:00 time lights either.) You just tell Tivo what program to record (even in the future), and it records it.

Tivo users also have the option to choose to record an entire season called "Season Pass". A Tivo user could select taping all reruns of "Friends", and the system automatically tapes the entire series.

When Tivo users want to watch a program, they simply go through a listing of all taped programs (with proper labels and episode information) and choose which program they wish to watch. They can fast forward to the parts they want, and they can even program a button to skip 30 seconds, very useful for fast forwarding commercials).

When watching Live TV, the Tivo users can even rewind Live TV to replay any part they missed. They can also pause Live TV during a Big Game so you can go to the door and pay the pizza delivery person.

Some Tivo's have a Dual Tuner Feature where you can record two shows in parallel. Tivo Series 3 supports High Definition. (Once you use Tivo Series 3 to record HD programs, you'll realize that you won't want to watch standard definition anymore.)

The Tivo is an easy to use standalone box which doesn't require a PC. The Tivo box is the size of a DVD player, and downloads program information either through a home network (wired, or wireless) or through a dialup phone number. Obviously, Tivo will require a connection to the content (Cable, satellite, or over the air).

Some Tivos even have a DVD writer built in (not Tivo Series 3).

If a Tivo user connects through the PC, that user will be able to access some information on the PC, including displaying photos. This Tivo Server feature will most likely be able to support many value added features similar to a Window Media Server or Apple iTV. You can access some Yahoo (YHOO) functionality from the Tivo interface as well.

Tivo and Amazon have also teamed up with Amazon Unbox. This will allow users of Tivo to purchase shows from Amazon and have them downloaded direct to the Tivo box to be watched later.

With Tivo Series 3, you don't even need a cable box. Typically, with older Tivos, a cable box may be connected to the Tivo. But Tivo Series 3 allows Cable Cards to be inserted into the Tivo instead of a Cable set-top box. The cable card essentially replaces the Set-Top Box (you won't get video on demand, however). This removes clutter from the entertainment system and simplifies things.

Users of Tivo pay a monthly subscription fee. Sometime ago, users were offered a lifetime subscription, but this offer is no longer offered. Some people go to Ebay to buy a Tivo with Lifetime subscription attached.

Tivo's Effect

Tivo and the DVR has truly changed the way people live. Before, people would reschedule their life so they can try to catch their favorite show. A lucky few may have planned in advance and setup their VCR to record a few programs here and there.

But now, Tivo users can live their life without being attached to the broadcast TV schedule. Tivo users can watch what they want, anytime they want. Those who have Tivo never watch Live TV again.

For parents, it can be very helpful too. Parents can tell their children to not watch any television during school nights, and on the weekend, they can watch shows they missed on Tivo.

Tivo users save a lot of time too as they learn to fastforward shows or fast forward commercials.

And Tivo, if you don't need the TivoServer feature, doesn't require a PC. And the Tivo looks to be much easier to setup than a Windows Media Server or even an Apple TV.


If Tivo is so good, then why don't more people use it?

Good question and this is a challenge for Tivo (as well as all the players in the Digital Living Room). As I discussed in a previous post, many companies are fighting for market share in the Digital Living Room. One person even wished that some Tivo functionality can be combined with Apple TV (who has a near monopoly with iTunes, and has a deal with YouTube to show YouTube videos.

The industry still has ways to go and may require consolidation and partnership and interoperability. But as my description of Tivo above shows, we are getting closer to a life changing digital living room. Tivo certainly has already changed many peoples lives.

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