Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"TiVo Like" Features on your PC

TiVoMy name is Bill and I am a TiVoholic. I’m almost embarrassed to say we currently have six TiVo’s in our house and home office. It really annoys me when I hear someone say they have “TiVo like” features in their product. Google results in over 100,000 sites when searching on “TiVo-Like”.

There is WAY MORE to TiVo than its ability to pause or fast forward through commercials. Unless they own a TiVo most people won’t understand.

The most common offenders relate to the software that comes with TV video cards for PC’s. Even Microsoft strives to be TiVo-Like with its Windows XP Media Center Edition. While I’m impressed with the hardware that decodes TV signals for your PC, I have yet to find TV-PC software that isn’t crap.

Last year I tried out the ATI All-in-Wonder graphics board. The software that was included made my system so unstable I no choice but to remove it. Last week I needed to do some testing with Pinnacles Program Scheduler so I picked up a PCTV HD Stick on Amazon. When I could get it to work the HD analog signal that streamed on to my screen was crystal clear. I didn’t have the patience to do a full software evaluation so I’ll just summarize by saying, it sucks.

I have checked out others but none have the stability or power of TiVo. I do have a little bit of experience in this area. When I worked for Microsoft my job was to design an EPG(Electronic Program Guide) for something called the Information Highway PC. Some of my time was spent doing focus studies, observing people from behind a one-way mirror. It was a lot of fun but unfortunately I didn’t stay out west long enough to make a difference.

Now TiVo has announced a partnership with digital software company, Nero AG, best known for their CD/DVD burning suites. At last, a real TiVo interface on a PC. According to TiVo’s CEO Tom Rogers…

“This agreement provides TiVo with an opportunity to deliver its interface and differentiated feature set globally via the PC, enabling TiVo to use all avenues of mass distribution -- from consumer electronics, to cable and satellite boxes and soon, the PC”

This sounds promising but I’m still a little skeptical. The current TiVo software is Unix based and I’m not sure how successfully it can be ported to run under Windows. You’d think I’d be doing the dance of joy but I’ll stick with my current TiVo boxes for now.

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