TiVo Cozies Up to PCs, Satellite

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LAS VEGAS -- TiVo will soon offer new services through its Home Media Option, notably the ability to transfer and burn recorded programs using a PC. At a press conference here at the Consumer Electronics Show, company executives also unveiled several upcoming hardware devices, including TiVo's first high definition-ready device produced in cooperation with DirecTV.

Owners of the TiVo Series 2 hardware who have networked the device with the $100 Home Media Option will be able to transfer recordings to a PC to view or burn to DVD disc, says Mike Ramsay, TiVo CEO. The new "TiVo to Go" service bundle will include hardware and software components, both due this fall. Pricing was not announced.

The TiVo Content Security Key is the hardware portion. TiVo designed it to ensure recorded content stays secure--which means you can't share it over the Internet, Ramsay says. The key is a small, USB-based device. To access TiVo content on a PC, or to burn it to disc, you must insert the key into the PC. DVDs you burn using the PC will play in any DVD player or PC and do not require the key.

The software component comes from Sonic and includes a TiVo-enabled version of the MyDVD and CinePlayer applications. You use the MyDVD program to transfer and burn content, and the CinePlayer to watch it on the PC.

Networking Enhancements

In addition to TiVo to Go, Ramsay described several recent and upcoming features for TiVo owners with the Home Media Option and a PC.

Chief among them: the ability to access satellite radio through TiVo. Scheduled to be available in the second half of 2004, this new feature can be used by subscribers to the XM Satellite radio service who listen through their computer via the company's PC Radio device.

TiVo users will be able to access XM's numerous radio feeds using the TiVo remote and interface. The PC streams audio to the TiVo over a home network, and the content doesn't take up space on the device's hard drive.

Also, Adobe's Photoshop Album 2.0 program or Picasa's Hello software can be used to display photos on TVs instead of the Home Media Option's bundled photo viewer, Ramsay says. And a TiVo-enabled version of MoodLogic can be used with the Home Media Option to categorize and play MP3s through TiVo. The software supports categories such as genre, artist, tempo, year, and mood.

Upcoming Hardware

TiVo also unveiled several new hardware devices, including its first-ever high-definition-capable unit. DirectTV will release the unit within months, and has not yet announced pricing.

TiVo executives offered a few hardware details, however. Notably, the unit doesn't compress the high-definition signal (current TiVo DVRs compress standard-definition broadcasts to fit more programs on the hard disk). This lack of compression, however, requires much larger hard drives. For example, a 250GB hard drive can store about 200 hours of standard programming, but only about 30 hours of high definition.

TiVo has offered reference-version stand-alone high-definition hardware to vendors, but so far none has committed to making a unit, Ramsay says.

Finally, Ramsay discussed several new TiVo-based DVD recorders from vendors Toshiba and Humax, due later this year. Details are scarce, but he noted that, like a similar Pioneer unit available now, the new players will create discs that include the simple, easy-to-use TiVo interface.

These types of hardware will hasten the end of the VCR, he said.

"The VCR is dead, not just resting," he said. "It has shuffled off this mortal coil."

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This story, "TiVo Cozies Up to PCs, Satellite" was originally published by PCWorld.

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