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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

TiVo's Last Stand

TiVo today unleashed a barrage of new services that could well determine the company's future.

First, new TiVo software enables any web video content to be transferred to a TV. The software automatically transcodes QuickTime, Windows Media Video, and MPEG-4 video so that it can be shown on a TV. I disagree with their decision to charge for the software -- they should give it away as a product differentiator.

TiVo also announced a "unified" search technology that will enable users to search TV and online content together, starting next year. If they are consistent with their previous interface design, this could truly bring the web to TVs for the first time.

TiVo customers will also be able to publish home videos so that others (by permission only) will be able to watch them through their TiVo boxes. This "custom channel" feature is a limited niche, but for people with distant relatives, it could be enough to get people to buy their service.

Last but not least, TiVo announced it has added web content partners who will make content available to the boxes through the TiVoCast service, including CBS interactive, Reuters, Forbes and Nano. TiVoCast is a good idea, but allowing RSS feeds of ANY vlog or video podcast to be directly sent to TiVo is what's needed. Just like a "Digg or Delicious" button, let's get TiVo buttons on the web.

If TiVo can figure out the right mix between pay-for and ad-supported services, they may yet become the financial star that I thought they would become when I first went to their office 7 years ago. With cable companies offering DVRs at a fraction of the cost of a TiVo, integrating the web and owning search is the best way to differentiate their service. TiVo is making strides towards first-time profitability with ad revenues way up, so there is hope.

By John Gartner at 09:58 AM | Comments (0)

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