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TiVo

From Academic Kids

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TiVo's Logo

The TiVo (tē-vō) personal video recorder is a consumer video component allowing users to capture television programming to internal hard drive storage. TiVo systems can function similarly to VCRs, but use non-removable hard-disk storage, and contain much more sophisticated software to record programming - not only programs the user specifically requests, but also other material the user is likely to be interested in. Additionally, live programs being viewed may be paused and replayed, and a program may be viewed without waiting for the "recording" to complete (time shifting). The device was created by TiVo Inc. Template:NASDAQ a company started by veterans of Silicon Graphics and Time Warner's Full Service Network digital video system.

TiVo can also refer to TiVo Inc., as well as the TiVo service, which is the network that the recorder itself communicates with.

In the United States, TiVo is sometimes used as a verb to describe the digital recording of a television program with any DVR hardware or software (e.g. "Could you TiVo Star Trek for me tonight?"). The TiVo company discourages use of TiVo as a verb for fear that it could cause the name to become a genericized trademark.

TiVo is available in consumer electronics devices and also integrated into DirecTV digital video recorders. The TiVo service is only available to the United States and the United Kingdom at present, but has also been modified by end users to work in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and The Netherlands. However, boxes are no longer sold in the United Kingdom, the service is provided only for those boxes still in service.

On January 12th 2005, TiVo announced that its CEO, Mike Ramsay, would be stepping down once a replacement has been found. He intends remaining on as Chairman of the board.

TiVo and cable television giant Comcast reached a nonexclusive distribution deal in March 2005 easing some investor concerns over TiVo's future. The companies announced the agreement saying they're working to make TiVo's service available over Comcast's cable network. The first of their co-developed products will be available in mid- to late-2006 and will use the TiVo brand.


Contents

DVR functions

TiVo DVRs allow a user to specify programming to record by time, program name, genre, or other more complex parameters. Utilizing an internal programming guide (updated nightly via phone or network connection to TiVo headquarters), the TiVo DVR selects and records the desired programming. Programming may be stored until the large internal hard disk is filled to capacity, at which time the unit will dispose of older or less desired programs in favor of space to record new ones. This practice of automatically recording programs for later viewing is often referred to as time shifting. The name TiVo is formed from a combination of the well known abbreviations TV and io: Television Input/Output. This is essentially the concept of the product.

Besides recording programs specified by the users, the units also can automatically record programs that are based on interests of the users; each time the users are watching a program, they can tell TiVo whether they favor that show or not. That is used as a profile and TiVo can start to record programs that might fit to preference of the users without explicitly specifying such programs. This helps the users to discover programs they have never heard of but would find interesting. This innovative feature was intended to change the way people watch TV.

In addition to recording specific programs, the TiVo unit constantly records the incoming television signal, allowing users to pause or rewind "live" TV within a short (generally 30 minute) buffer. This allows the users to watch shows that are still being recorded. The classic way to watch "live" TV with a TiVo unit is to start watching 10-15 minutes after the program you're interested in has started. Thus the TiVo has a 10-15 minute buffer built up that you can use to fast-forward through commercials as the program progresses. This is one of the most obvious advantages of TiVo over traditional VCRs. Seasoned TiVo users hardly ever watch 'live' TV.

Another advantage over traditional tape based recorders is that users can watch a recording from a TiVo unit as it records another program. In addition, unlike generic DVRs, TiVo Series2 units may be connected to a home network, which allows TiVo users to schedule recordings via a web browser, transfer recordings from a TiVo unit to another TiVo unit or to a home computer, and use some other home networking features.

Newer Tivos can now get what is called a "season pass." This season pass allows the Tivo to record a show every time it comes on. The user can also tell the Tivo not to record reruns. Tivos can also be told to record something from any computer that has an internet connection. Tivos can also view pictures and play music stored on home computers through a home network.

In January 2005, TiVo announced a long-term strategy (http://www.tivo.com/5.3.1.1.asp?article=235) that includes support for HDTV recording, integrated tuning using CableCARD technology, the ability to download and view content from the Internet, and a program allowing third parties to develop applications for the platform. The company has stated that the first HD/CableCARD unit will ship in early 2006.

Tivo has continued to expand their offerings as a media convergance device. January 2005 saw the release of Tivo To Go, a feature allowing the transfer of recorded shows from Tivo boxes to Windows PCs. Tivo partnered with Sonic in the release of MyDVD 6.1, a software program which allows for the editing and conversion of TTG files. Other means of manipulating files are described at the Tivo To Go Unleashed (http://www.zatznotfunny.com/ttg.htm) tutorial.

Market share

Despite its innovative functionalities and ease of use, TiVo has had a difficult time penetrating consumer markets as well as traditional digital video recorders. Many TiVo adopters testify that they love TiVo so much that they cannot imagine watching TV without it. In contrast to other PVR companies, TiVo is well-known for the Apple Macintosh-like loyalty of their users. Still, TiVo has remained a niche product -- to the disappointment of the creators. Some argue that this is because consumers are unfamiliar with the benefits of a system like TiVo. It may take a few weeks of use to fully understand the magnitude of the change TiVo brings to television viewing. Consumers that are not techno-savvy thus tend to prefer cheaper, more familiar systems like traditional tape recorders. Another factor is perhaps the cost of the monthly or lifetime subscription fees. TiVo's market share growth has also been slowed by the proliferation of Digital Video Recorders being offered by cable television operators. They are often touted as having no up front equipment costs and a lower subscription fee, as well as seamless compatibility with the cable television system (allowing a user to record more than one channel at a time).

The TiVo PVR, manufactured by Thomson, was launched in the United Kingdom in the autumn of 2000. As in the US it acquired a niche market position, selling about 35,000 units over the next year and a half. Although user forums have reflected the US experience of not being able to imagine watching TV without it, they have also criticised the company for failing to run an effective advertising campaign to promote the TiVo system, with the result that the PVR went out of production in the UK in early 2002. The TiVo service continues to be provided to existing customers, and the price of second-hand machines with lifetime subscriptions has soared on online auction sites above the original market price of 400.

While its main competitor, ReplayTV, has adopted a commercial-skip feature, TiVo has decided to avoid automatic implementation of that feature, fearing such a move might provoke Hollywood movie companies. There is however, a 30 second skip feature activated via the remote control that many find nearly as useful.

Hardware anatomy

The TiVo unit was designed by TiVo Inc., which currently provides the hardware design, Linux-based TiVo software, and operates the subscription dial-up service (without which a late-model TiVo will not operate.) TiVo units have been manufactured by various OEMs, including Philips and Sony, which license the software from TiVo Inc.

TiVo systems are based on PowerPC or MIPS processors, connected to MPEG-2 encoder/decoder chips and high-capacity IDE/ATA hard drives. A typical TiVo unit has one drive of between 40 and 140 gigabytes in size. Larger drives can be used with the addition of a kernel upgrade.

Some recent models manufactured by Toshiba, Pioneer and Humax, under license from TiVo, contain DVD-R/RW drives. The models can transfer recordings from the built in hard drive to an industry standard DVD playable in most modern DVD drives.

Standalone TiVo systems can only record one digital cable channel at a time, due to the fact that the TiVo unit cannot decode the digital signal itself, and must therefore rely on an external digital cable box to set the channels; it communicates to this box via a serial cable. Though the company attempted to partner with several digital cable systems (particularly Comcast), all major digital cable providers opted to provide their own DVR systems, integrated with their own cable boxes; unlike TiVo, these boxes do not require a hardware purchase, but are rented from the cable companies with service. Also, unlike TiVo, many of these boxes are capable of recording an HDTV program at full resolution.

Some TiVo systems are integrated with DirecTV receivers. These DirecTiVo recorders are interesting because they record the incoming satellite MPEG-2 digital stream directly to hard disk without conversion. Because of this and the fact that they have two tuners, DirecTiVos are able to record two programs at once. In addition, the lack of digital conversion allows recorded video to be of the same quality as live video. It also provides TiVo hackers access to pristine digital copies of television programming. DirecTiVos have no MPEG encoder chip. They can only record DirectTV streams.

The latest DirecTiVo units (HR10-250) can also record High-Definition Television to a 250 gigabyte hard drive, both from the DirecTV stream and over-the-air via a standard UHF- or VHF-capable antenna. They have four tuners (two DirecTV and two over-the-air) and, like the original DirecTiVo, can record two programs at once.

TiVo hacking

Various groups exist to "hack" the TiVo box - some organized to improve the service and others in order to provide service in countries where the TiVo is not currently being sold. TiVo has generally remained on good terms with these projects, although it has lately begun to clamp down on many of the "back doors" in the software.

Many users have had success in installing extra and/or larger hard drives in their TiVo boxes to increase its recording capacity. Others have designed and built Ethernet cards, a web interface, and figured out how to extract / insert or transfer video among their TiVo boxes.

Recently, some have complained about TiVo's aggressive remote software-update system, which has the capability to add and remove features without customer's specific authorization. Early TiVo units were marketed as being capable of functioning without a subscription to the TiVo service (although functionality would be markedly reduced). Newer units are designed to be eventually non-functional without a connection, and customers who have had their older units remotely updated complain that TiVo is retroactively violating their promise.

Privacy concerns

Some users are concerned about TiVo's ability to collect usage data from units via the telephone line; TiVo stipulates that (currently) all usage data is aggregated by zip code. In the United States, users can request that TiVo block the collection of Anonymous Viewing Information and Diagnostic Information from their TiVo DVR by calling 1-877-367-8486. Nielsen and TiVo have collaborated to track anonymous usage information.

Pop-up advertisements

In March 2005, TiVo began testing "pop-up" advertisements to select beta testers, to explore it as an alternative source of revenue. The concept is that, as you fast-forward through certain commercials of TiVo advertisers, you will also see a static image ad more suitable and effective than the broken video stream.

At its announcement, the concept of extra advertisements drew heavy criticism from TiVo's lifetime subscribers, who have historically been among the company's biggest supporters and fans. Some were upset that they had already paid for a service based upon their previous ad-free experience, while others argued that they had purchased the service for the specific purpose of dodging advertisements.

Early testers complained that the pop-up detector was buggy, and would sometimes pop-up during unrelated commercials, or even during regular TV programming. The ads are also aesthetically unpleasant, and take up a quarter of the screen. TiVo says that they are looking into these issues and will fix all of these problems before the advertising functions are rolled out to the public.

It is unclear if these advertisements will be rolled out to TiVo's joint venture boxes with DirectTV and Comcast or just to their own standalone boxes.

See also

External links

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