TiVo-to-go inherently broken?

So, BoingBoing and others are already starting to criticize TiVO’s new TiVo to Go service because it uses a proprietary DRM technology to lock content to a particular computer/TiVo combination (or something like that), thereby eliminating the ability for the user to edit or archive the content. It isn’t really clear that archival is disabled, but flexible archival is certainly limited.

In any case, Cory says Not delivering the products your customers demand is not good business. It never has been. as a way of criticizing what TiVO is delivering as not being what the customer wants.

Cory seems to have missed the point. As a long time TiVo user, I can tell you exactly what I and most other TiVo users want.

I want to know that my TiVo will have the accurate scheduling information required to resolve scheduling conflicts such that the TiVo will record the content I desire without me having to constantly double check the TiVo’s schedule of recording events.

To do that requires accurate scheduling information delivered in a timely fashion (i.e. ahead of lineup changes) by the various content distribution agents. Given the vast and ever increasing number of cable providers (San Jose has at least 6, maybe 8, different cable lineups depending on your location) and the control with which the local cable company can now exert over the broadcast schedule, having access to accurate information in a timely fashion is paramount to the TiVo unit’s ability to record the rights shows at the right time.

Being able to play a show on my computer is a “nice to have”. Being able to edit and share that content with others would be even nicer.

But if editing and sharing the content threatens the ability for the TiVo to fulfill its primary function, then what would be the point?

Cory asks Where does this bizarre idea — that the dinosaur industry that’s being displaced gets to dictate terms to the mammals who are succeeding it — come from?

It seems abundantly clear that this “bizarre idea” comes directly from the fact that the newcomers are dependent upon the dinosaurs not deciding to crush them. The newcomers are dependent upon cooperation from the dinosaurs or else the newcomers will not survive.

The dinosaurs are not only TiVo’s eventual competition, but also TiVo’s only means of achieving success.

Historically, the original ISPs were in a very similar situation and were pretty much completely crushed when the telcos decided there was money to be me made. The telcos could undercut the ISPs by simply eliminating the cost of two local loops (you -> ISP, ISP -> [telco] -> Internet vs. you -> [telco] -> Internet). TiVo is in a similar situation in that the cable companies could decide to roll out their own PVR with a claim that their PVR’s scheduled recordings are much more accurate/reliable because they are directly integrated with the scheduling stupidity at the head end.

So, TiVo walks a fine line and has been doing so very well. Witness ReplayTV (who? Gone.). They threw the 30 second skip and content distribution in the face of the broadcasters and the end result was the complete lack of strategic partnerships and the eventual death [twice] of the platform.


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