TiVo Series 5: What Should Be

By  |  Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 9:40 am

When TiVo announced its next-generation Series 4 Premiere boxes yesterday, I read about the news with a combination of intrigue and relief. The changes–including a spiffed-up HD interface, better integration of disparate video sources, easy access to more information about shows and movies, a slimmer case, and an optional QWERTY remote–sound nice. But the Premieres are evolutionary advances on the TiVo HD that sits in my entertainment center–and whose hard drive I just replaced after the original one conked out. There’s nothing in the new models that makes the old ones feel like instant dinosaurs.

Here’s Dave Zatz’s extensive look at the new TiVos, which ship next month. As Dave says, TiVo is clearly trying to reposition its box from a DVR into a TV box that does a bunch of things. That makes sense. But my mind is already racing forward to think about all the things a next-next-generation TiVo might do. Here’s my wish list for the TiVo Series 5–and since it’s just a wish list and the Premieres’ replacements are years off, I’m going to ask for some things that may be technically or logistically impossible at the moment.

A TiVo.com that’s an extension of my TiVo. The biggest reason why I don’t use my TiVo even more than I do is because all the shows it finds for me are only available when I’m in my living room.¬†How about incorporating Slingbox-like functionality into the box that lets me log in and watch DVRd shows from any Web browser?

Better TiVo to Go. When TiVo announced that it would add the ability to move TiVo recordings onto PCs and other devices a few years ago, I got all excited. But the service as it exists is so unwieldy and glitchy that I’ve almost never used it. I’d kill for a radically-improved version that made it a snap to get a DVRd show from the TiVo in my living room onto my phone. Here’s a fantasy scenario: Maybe a TiVo could have the necessary software and jacks right on the box itself, so you could do the job without a PC being involved at all.

Better access to video podcasts and other free content. My current TiVo lets me browse and watch video podcasts, but the feature is crude, incomplete, and not very reliable. Why not make it as easy to get Season Passes for this stuff as it is to do so with cable programming? (Maybe the Premieres do this and I just don’t know about it.)

Full-blown access to Hulu in all its glory. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Video on demand. When I switched from DirecTV to Comcast and got on-demand cable, I liked it a lot, and was startled to discover that dumping Comcast’s cable box in favor of a TiVo HD meant I’d lose access to it. In fact, I flirted with the idea of gritting my teeth and going with a Comcast DVR. TiVo needs support for Tru2Way so getting it doesn’t mean giving anything up. (Side note: Dave Zatz noticed mention of Comcast On Demand in a Premiere screen shot, but is puzzled about it and wonders if it’s a Photoshopping goof.)

Satellite support. Speaking of DirecTV, it’s a shame that the Premiere models, like the Series 3 ones before them, won’t work with it or with Dish Network. A new Tivo box for DirecTV is due later this year, but I’d love to see one TiVo that works with every major TV service–at least as a high-end option.

Phone apps. There are third-party iPhone applications for stuff like remote programming. But we need slick, official TiVo apps for iPhone, Android, and other platforms. At bare minimum, they should serve as a Tivo uberremote control. But should’t they also let you stream video from the TiVo onto the phone’s screen–at least when you’re around the house and can do so via WiFi?

Apps, period! TiVo should provide Yahoo Widget-like features that let purveyors of Web services bring their offerings into the living room. Or how about simply working with Yahoo to get its impressive TV platform onto the TiVo, period?

A much smaller box. The Premiere is the sleekest TiVo to date, but it’s still no Apple TV.

Solid state storage, maybe? It’s still too costly and restricted in capacity–the best TiVo could do right now would be a 256GB model that cost a fortune. And maybe there are technical limitations I don’t know about. But in a decade or so of DVR ownership, I’ve found that rotating hard drives inside the boxes flake out on a regular basis. Seems like solid-state ones would be more reliable and permit for a far more compact box.

A DVRless device called a TiVo. The TiVo folks are right: TiVo isn’t about recording programming from a cable signal onto a hard drive for later watching. It’s about helping folks find the TV they want and watch it on their terms, period. Someday–maybe quite soon–universal video on demand and comprehensive Internet TV options will render the DVR part of TiVo obsolete. So why not get ahead of the curve by introducing an Internet-only TiVo–one that competes with devices like Roku and the Boxee Box, but with the familiar TiVo interface and remote?

Any other proposals, TiVo fans?


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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Zatz Says:

    “A DVRless device called a TiVo.”

    I started a post about two years ago how TiVo was leaving cash on the table by not expanding beyond DVRs. Having once owned a few TiVos with DVD drives, I always thought they should have made dedicated DVD players. Or how about Blu-ray? Or maybe a TiVo universal remote, based on the Glo.

    Conversely, if Boxee added a OTA ATSC tuner and DVR capabilities I think things would massively shift.

    It’s an interesting, but unclear time. Ben D (EngadgetHD) and I were chatting recently how we wish this stuff were as mature and the path as clear as what we’re seeing with the new mobile OSes (and apps).

  2. Zatz Says:

    PS I now have reason to believe that Comcast tile is something more than a Photoshop goof… But I’m still not clear what it is and haven’t gotten anything through formal channels yet.

  3. andy Says:

    Tivo S5; coming soon in 2015. TiVo has lost its MoJo.

  4. Glenn Says:


    – a RED DOT on the Programming Guide on anything that WILL BE recorded
    – a MUCH BETTER GUI for the Amazon VOD store, including graphics for movies, TV series episodes listed in the order they aired
    – support for photos and music playback from your PC as good as the Apple TV
    – a remote application for the iPhone and iPad that allows you to control the Tivo, view the todo list, resolve conflicts, etc both inside your house and when on the road. and yes, replaces the need for the qwerty remote
    – a built-in slingplayer capable of playing back to either a web-browser based player, an iPhone/iPad app, etc
    – Enhanced conflict resolution. Allow me to preview upcoming conflicts and resolve them however I want
    – MORE tuners. Why just two? Three, four…
    – Streaming of locked down content. If the copy once bits won’t let you copy it from one Tivo to another, how about just streaming it
    – Remote delete from one Tivo to another
    – Remote scheduling from one Tivo to another
    – Ability to record a show ONCE A DAY (e.g. Daily Show) even if the metadata doesn’t tell you exactly which one is the new one
    – Hulu and other Flash site playback. Silverlight and other technologies support as well please. Full web browser navigation when needed so Hulu can’t stop them, and ads play back as expected etc.
    – Playback of local videos in their native formats without conversion, e.g. DivX and Xvid support, mp4, etc
    – SDV and VOD support for cable companies
    – Enhanced support for smartphones, e.g. play photos or movies from my iPhone directly to the TV thru the Tivo (CableCo DVRs are starting to add these sorts of abilities)
    – WiFi support should be BUILT IN. No dongles!
    – Move to laptop hard drives if you want to take the power, noise and size down. They’re already up to 1TB if you don’t need to hit 9mm thickness.
    – 3D support of course.

  5. dholyer Says:

    In 2004 I started using Dish, I was already DVRing shows on my Panasonic DVD recorder with Hard disk editing since the late fall of 1998. Yesterday afternoon I looked over the new HD TIVO. It has some of the same features the Dish 722 receivers have. The big thing I did not see was the jump forward and backwards buttons. So it seems no easy way to jump through TV ads with now take on average 45% of a TV show, 52% if you count the TV show logo brands to let you know what you are watching after your 4 to 6 minutes of ad time.

    TIVO could be a distant second if I were to say bye to Dish but I would miss my 260+ channels my Gold package comes with and have to live in the small local RF world of 27 HDTV channels in the Denver area and almost half are Spanish and I do American English with a little German that came from my Grandparents.

    The big item missing is with a Dish box if I need more space to store video I want to keep, I go out and buy a One Terabyte USB 2 external hard disk and plug it in and that gives me around another year of video to store of content.

    I’m glad I chose Dish when I dropped what was called TCI Cable then and currently called Comcast. Oddly the two company’s are only a few blocks from each other with their headquarters both in Denver and 10,000 blocks directly East of my home.

    TIVO is still two or three years in the past, it may be new to them but it is years in the past from the true innovators in the Industry.

  6. Subversive Says:

    A feature I would love would be the ability to browse upcoming theater, DVD, and VOD releases, and easily add them to wish lists. This would be especially helpful with more artsy films which are not broadcast very often.

    (And speaking of wish lists, there should be an easier way to cancel a wish list after the recording was successful, without having to traverse the wish list menu.)

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  1. TiVo releases big new DVR… ho hum - The Gadgetress : The Orange County Register Says:

    […] other then that, there aren’t too many changes from the last upgrade. Technologizer laments the lack of video-on-demand, access to online TV site Hulu.com, and a TiVo that works with all TV services, […]