Thursday, November 10, 2005

Tivo Question...

While doing some Tivo research, I got confused about some of its features, and I was hoping that some of the more technically inclined members of the Churn Family could help.

As I understand it, unless you buy a Tivo with Dual Tuners, you won't be able to record one show while watching another.

That seems to be a huge drawback, since I'm able to do just that with my ancient VCR.

Secondly, since your standard DVR is just a big hard drive with some software attached, why aren't there more alternatives? I know there's 'homegrown' projects like MythTV out there, but I'm wondering why the market hasn't opened up.

Mike G.

1 comment:

MegaZone said...

You can record one show and watch another with a standalone TiVo, just like with a VCR. If you connect analog cable directly to the TiVo you can also connect the RF out from the TiVo to the TV. If you put the TiVo in 'Standby' then the RF is bypassed to the TV. Alternatively, of if you have digiral cable, then you can use an RF splitter on the cable and run one to the TV and the other to the TiVo, or cable box. Then you can change the input on the TV and use the TV's tuner to watch analog channels while the TiVo does its thing. Just as you would with a VCR. TiVo also has the benefit of being able to watch one recording while it is making another, even watching a show while it is still recording.

There are other DVRs. ReplayTV is still out there, limping along, of course. There are a number of DVD recorders which include hard drives, effectively making them DVR/DVD-R combo units (including 6 TiVo/DVD-R models). There are a couple of Sony CableCARD DVRs, and others.

Of course, there are the cable company DVRs - mainly the Scientific Atlanta 8000/8300 series and the Motorola 6000 series.

The thing is, while a DVR can be as simple as a basic VCR with a drive - basic scheduling, MPEG encoder, and drive - TiVo is quite a bit more than that. A smart guide system, intelligent scheduling, suggestions, etc. Plus all the additional features - music and photo support, online scheudling, moving shows between units and to/from a PC, Home Media Engine, etc. So it is much more than just a basic DVR.

Both DirecTV and Dish Network have their own DVRs, so they lock up their markets. And now all the major cable companies have DVR offerings, and to compete with that you need to compete on usability and features. It would be hard for a basic DVR to compete with the basic DVRs the cable company will rent you cheaply. TiVo can compete because they offer a fantastic feature set the cable boxes lack. There really isn't a system that is competitive with TiVo on features. ReplayTV is the closest, and they basically stopped development a couple of years ago.