TiVo today released TiVo Desktop 2.3 for Windows. The two major changes in 2.3 are scheduled transfers and conversion for portable devices. (No, no news on the Mac 2.x yet. I’m sorry. Please no ‘Where’s the Mac version?’ comments – you’d have to ask TiVo.)
Scheduled transfers are a free feature included in 2.3. You can setup a Season Pass-like transfer for specific shows, then any time that program is recorded on your TiVo the TiVo Desktop will automatically transfer the new recording to your PC. This is a popular feature in software like TVHarmony AutoPilot and Galleon. Transfers to Windows Media devices like portable media players, Windows Mobile PDAs and phones, etc, are still supported in the free version as it has been in the past.
New in 2.3 is the option of upgrading to TiVo Desktop Plus, for $24.95. That fee pays for codec licenses that allow TiVo Desktop to transcode the transferred recordings for other devices. The devices listed are the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP), Palm Treo 650, Nokia N80, H.264-compatible devices (such as iPod), and MPEG-4-compatible devices. Those are all really variants of MPEG-4, I suppose the settings are pre-optimized for each platform. I bet the Treo 650 setting works for the 700p as well. (The 700w is Windows Mobile so it should work with the free conversion.) Desktop Plus also includes an MPEG-2 codec which will allow you to playback TiVoToGo transfers on your PC, if you don’t already have an MPEG-2 codec install. You can use the transcoding feature in conjunction with the auto-transfer feature, so that you can have your new shows always ready to go on your portable player.
One catch – conversions are only for new transfers once you select the conversion settings. The software doesn’t allow you to transcode old transfers, and there is one transcoding setting so you can’t transcode some shows to PSP and others to iPod without changing the setting between transfers. But, really, most users are going to have one portable device and I don’t think these limitations will matter to most users.
So why is there a fee? The MPEG standards are not free, they use patented technology and to be legal any software vendor who uses them has to pay licensing fees to the MPEG LA. While there are free codecs out there, and free software that uses them, in most cases they’re technically illegal. If TiVo were to distribute the software without paying the licensing fees, they’d be hit with a lawsuit before they could blink. So they’ve licensed the software and the upgrade fee goes to cover the license fees. If you don’t need the features, you don’t have to pay for them. And there are still other alternatives for those who’d rather find a free way to do the conversions.
And just to plug my favorite TiVo Desktop plug-in, remember the TiVo Desktop Universal Audio Plug-in allows you to listen to almost any audio format that plays under DirectShow – AAC, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, WAV, etc. No need to convert to MP3 files to listen on the TiVo