Last night, looking to staunch the loss of subscribers and fend off challenges from Internet connected TVs, Blu-ray players and other set-top boxes, Tivo introduced an overhauled DVR designed to aggregate video content, whether it be from YouTube or NBC.
Unfortunately, while the new Premiere DVR has some nice features, it doesn't offer the sort of groundbreaking applications it needs to attract new subscribers and get viewers to shell out $300 for a new machine. I say "unfortunately" because Tivo is one of those products that those of us who cover the industry wish would succeed. But with each successive release, we have to grudgingly admit that it is too expensive and too cumbersome to ever really catch on. (Alas, even the use of the phrase "Tivo it" is on the wane.)
Nevertheless, current Tivo subscribers may want to upgrade to the Premiere box. The new software neatly integrates movie download services such as Amazon and Blockbuster with streaming offerings from Netflix and Web-based video from sites like YouTube. It will play Adobe Flash videos, a nod to the de facto standard online. It will not work with Hulu, so the networks apparently are still not ready to make the leap from online to on TV. (One wonders if they may wait too long, given that boxes like Tivo's and televisions from Panasonic, Vizio, Toshiba, Sony, LG, etc., are already making an end-run around cable companies and their video-on-demand businesses. After the cable companies succumb, the broadcast networks will be next unless they can quickly make the Web work for them as a path.)
Tivo did not announce any social networking applications, although the company said it wants to encourage other companies to write applications for its product. (Who doesn't? Now that Apple has figured out how to copy Microsoft's 20-year-old business model, everyone else wants to do it, too.) So there may be Facebook and Twitter hooks yet.
Alas, there was no announcement of Tivo's technology being introduced on other consumer electronics products. That's the holy grail the company truly seeks…and truly needs.
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