Friday, February 17, 2006

One of those "Oh, wow" moments

We received an automatic TiVo software upgrade a day or so back, which has given me renewed hope for TiVo's future. Like most TiVo owners, I agonize over the company's prospects, and what I would do if it ever goes out of the business. It's kind like once being the owner of a Newton or of a Betamax. You know its good, but you don't know whether its going to survive. And yes, yes, I know that most cable companies - including my company sacked by its piratical owners, Adelphia - now offer some sort of TiVo-like DVR package. From all descriptions from family and friends, they, in a word, suck, at least in comparison to TiVo.

Back to the upgrade. As has been reported for awhile, TiVo and Yahoo have worked up an alliance which, among other things, allows TiVo owners to schedule recordings directly from a Yahoo page. That exciting news was greeted by a great yawn of boredom on the Merrimack front, as with my lifestyle it's easier to get up from the computer, walk into the den, and use the TiVo remote. But, I suppose if you're off traveling or something and find a "must-see" show that you want to record on your home TiVo it could be useful. More exciting to me was the mere fact of the Yahoo/TiVo deal, which could TiVo get some much-needed publicity that could translate into more TiVo owners.

And now, with the TiVo upgrade, you can view your Yahoo photos on your TV; find out what traffic is like (not in Merrimack, though. What would they say, "Deer and chipmunk volume unusually heavy this morning"?); and check out a 3-day weather forecast if you're too busy to use the hundreds of other options for checking out the weather. None of these made me jump up and cry, " Why, smack my ass, Sally."

But wait, as they say, there's more, and here is where things start to get interesting. The Tivo upgrade includes (and I should interject, you need to have your TiVo connected to the internet in some fashion) ; some basic little games that can be played through the TiVo remote (somewhat warm on the coolness factor); the capability to find out what movies are showing in your area and buy tickets through Fandango; (cool) access to Live365 Internet radio (very cool) - free if you're willing to put up with the same restrictions as listening through the Web, or you can purchase a subscription... and...and...

Podcasts. You can now listen to any podcast on the web through your TV... This American Life; the official "Lost" podcast; NPR podcasts; news podcasts; music podcasts... any podcast. As you can see from the photo above and to your left, I now have Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio on my TV, as well as TwiT, and a half-dozen other favorites.

Now, your first reaction may be "why is Fred getting so excited about TiVo re-inventing radio?" but I tell you, this is a Good Thing for both TiVo and podcasting and could become a Big Thing for both. Uno: Many people who previously didn't 't listen to podcasts will now. If you already have an iPod, it's probably not going to dramatically change your listening habits. But if you don't and now have this... Dos: TiVo is already beta testing video podcasting. Imagine being able to produce your own TV show and deliver it directly to TiVo subscribers. And tres, you can bet the farm that Google, Microsoft, and the cable industry are watching this with an eagle eye. Expect lots of video and podcasts to be showing up on your TV in the near future.

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