Uh oh. TiVoToGo is coming to Apple’s new iPod with video (also known as ‘iPod’). It’ll work with Windows but not with the Mac? Should you care? Will it matter?
TiVo, as many TV viewers know, is the ‘digital video recorder for the rest of us.’ A very Mac-like interface and feature set has gained TiVo a cult-like following and growing sales.
TiVo’s digital video recorder (DVR) is a similar in size to a cable company set-top box, records live video from your cable connection, stores it on a hard drive for playback.
Among the many in the DVR crowd, TiVo’s box and on-screen software is considered by many to be superbly well done, and has a following similar to Mac users.
The TiVoToGo service is for Windows PCs only and enables users to move downloaded video content (TV shows, news, movies) from the TiVo device to a PC.
Now TiVo says they’re beta testing a TiVoToGo service which will convert TV shows, movies to video formatted for the new Apple iPod with video, and Sony’s PlayStation Portable.
While this is probably good news for Apple, good news for TiVo owners who use a PC, it’s not good for Mac users. Why? No TiVoToGo service for Mac users. Yet. If ever.
TiVoToGo is a good way for TiVo to separate itself from the highly competitive DVR market. TiVo’s growth has slowed amid similar DVR offerings from cable TV companies.
At a base level, a DVR is just a box with a hard drive that records TV from cable. The software on the box, and available to users via an on-screen menu, is the real difference between TiVo and cable company DVRs.
TiVoToGo will also feature a digital ‘watermark’ on TV programs that are downloaded for portable transfer so they can be traced back to the original TiVo account.
What’s interesting about this is the ability to allow users to transfer TV content to a portable device without having to pay for the content. With TV shows from iTunes Music Store, users pay $1.99 per episode to transfer the video to a Mac, PC, or iPod.
TiVo says the new TiVoToGo service, currently free, may end up costing users, though TiVo won’t say how much. TiVo’s monthly subscription fee is $12.95. Cable companies often provide their DVR for as low as $9.95 per month.
This is all great for Windows users who buy Apple’s new iPod. When the TiVo service is available early in 2006, Windows users will be able to copy TV shows and TV movies direct to their iPods and PSPs.
Mac users are out of luck as there is no TiVoToGo service for Apple’s computers. Why?
Mac marketshare might be an issue from TiVo’s perspective. While the Mac’s market share hovers at 4-percent nationally, it is likely around 12-percent among home users (business users are not likely to use TiVo and their PCs at work)—much less than Windows.
Another issue might be the strategy of making TiVo an attractive take-over target by Apple. TiVo’s stock price hovers between $3.00 and $6.00 per share, with a market cap of less than $500-million, almost pocket change for Apple.
However, TiVo’s revenue is small and not growing rapidly, so Apple would be buying a money-losing company, making such a purchase unlikely.
For now, no TiVoToGo service for Mac users. The only way to get TV shows into your Mac and to your new iPod with video is a cumbersome step-by-step process.
Add a video tuner to your Mac, which makes it a DVR. Record TV shows and movies to your Mac, transfer them to the iPod’s video format (slow process), add to iTunes, copy to the iPod.
That’s too much trouble for the average Mac user and pales in comparison to the simple ‘click, click, download’ process offered by iTunes Music Store.
Will TiVo add TiVoToGo for Macs? The company says they may plan such an option for Mac users though no timetable has been published.
Does Apple have a different solution planned for the future that will bring TV shows to the iPod?
Some Mac prognosticators expect Apple to provide a souped up Airport Express AV (audio video) version which may include a TV tuner to connect to your Mac via WiFi.
Others say Apple will continue to see the ‘pay for video’ market with TV shows and eventually movies available on the iTunes Music Store. Regardless, a number of things must take place.
Apple must move quickly to provide more video content and a seamless way to move content from TV to iPods. We’re still waiting.
Americans are collectors. We collect music. We collect CDs. We collect DVDs. We’ll probably collect TV shows and movies in iTunes if they’re available.
I’m in favor of an Airport Express AV device and expect one to be introduced at Macworld in January. If Apple is to control the digital hub, then content must be able to move.
TiVo is a much better experience than the cable company’s DVR offerings. I’ve had both. Essentially, they do the same thing. But TiVo costs $50 to $200 up front, another $12.95 a month, vs. the cable company’s $9.95 a month.
Tera Jean Patricks
Maybe we’re not looking at the big picture, as Apple’s view of the whole ‘digital hub’ marketplace may be different than ours. I look for an Airport Express AV device, too, but I also think Macworld 2006 will bring us an Intel-based iBook with some surprises.