TiVo experimented, successfully, with ‘no up front fee’ pricing last fall, and in the Q4 con-call they said they’d be looking to do more pricing plans like that, so it isn’t a surprise. I’ve long said that they should have a cell phone style pricing structure. You can pay all up front or pay something for the box and a monthly rate. But if you’re willing to commit to terms of service – 1 year, 2 years – and/or a higher monthly fee, the up front cost is reduced or eliminated. So I’ll be happy to see them introduce this officially.
As for getting a free box – you can do that today with a refurb. Pre-pay for a year and get a ‘factory-renewed’ 40 hour box free. (Tip: When you activate a box, if you have a prepaid subscription for any period (3/6/12 months), you can activate as lifetime and apply the credit towards the cost of lifetime instead.)