What TiVo Series 4 Premiere Is Missing

What TiVo Series 4 Premiere Is Missing
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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