I’ll have more to say later, but I wanted to toss out a few key points before I crash for a bit.
The biggest issue is that, contrary to what most of us believed previously, this software *is* running on OCAP, it is not a port to the Motorola hardware. Now, while OCAP is supposed to be a standard across platforms, it is still in its infancy, so it isn’t quite that simple. But it does mean that this code is fairly portable. The initial deployment will be to the Motorola 3400 and 6400 series set top boxes, but it will very likely be ported to other cable boxes. Hard drive capacity depends on the cable MSO and what they’ve deployed. For example, a 6412 has a 120GB, a 6408 has 80GB, etc.
Since this is an OCAP application, it is an entirely new code base. This isn’t really a ‘port’ of the TiVo software, it is an all-new implementation done in Java – which is required for OCAP applications. Even more than that, the entire thing is basically a big HME application. They used the HME toolkit to develop it – there is basically an HME client and server running together on the box. They’ve clearly expanded the HME toolkit from what is currently available to the public, but they don’t have immediate plans to update the public toolkit. That may happen down the road, but for now the engineering resources are needed on this project.
You’ll note, in the photos I posted, the new remote. When users opt for the TiVo software on their DVR, the remote will be mailed to them. It is basically the remote included with today’s Series2 units – except there are five additional buttons – and ‘OnDemand’ button and A, B, C, D buttons. The latter are required to be OCAP compliant, and they’re put to good use. In many screens the ‘A’ button can filter the data show. In the Guide it can toggle through filters such as ‘All’. ‘Movies’, ‘Kids’, ‘HD’, etc. In Searching it can rotate though ‘TV’, ‘OnDemand’, or ‘Both’. Which brings up a key point – it is fully integrated. So when you do a search it searches not only the standard cable channels, but also OnDemand content. Wishlists will also find both – though an Auto-Record Wish List will not automatically order an OnDemand program for you. Which is just logical I think.
As it was a new implementation, they took the opportunity to revise some of the UI elements – and I really like what they’ve done. A lot of the UI uses a ‘two pane’ system, with navigation on the left and an expansion of the selected item on the right. This ‘flattens’ a lot of the UI, so you don’t have to drill down through as many menus. They also pulled the recording history out of the To Do List, and the To Do List screen is greatly enhanced. Now you can see what will record and what will not record, as well as checking specific days which will clearly display which programs will or will not record due to conflicts.
The Guide is color coded so you can tell what kind of content a program is at a glance. Currently only a grid guide is available, the ‘TiVo Style’ guide is not included, but it may be included in a future release. You’ll also notice a video window in the upper right of all the screens. That’s something Comcast insisted on, so it is common throughout the menu screens.
Searching has also been completely revised. On the current TiVos, Searching really isn’t, it is more like ‘filter by title’ than ‘search by title’. The word(s) you enter have to match from the start of the title. With this new search what you enter can match anywhere in the title, episode title, or description. The photos I posted show a demo of a search for ‘Rachael Ray’, and in the results you can see that it also highlights where the match is in the results – very slick.
You’ll notice an HD folder in the recordings list (aka Now Playing), note the photo of the screen when you’re in the photo. There is an episode summary at the top of the screen as you roll-over each episode in the folder. One thing that is missing on the Series3 is present – you can search and filter on HD content. So you can find shows that are only HD, setup Wishlists with ‘HD’ as a condition, etc. Wishlist creation has also been changed. It isn’t quited the ‘Advanced Wishlist’ capabilities with booleans, etc, but there are some more options.
So, what’s missing? ALL networking features – no ‘Music, Photos, Programs, & More’, no TiVoCast, no Guru Guides, no online scheduling, etc. However, Comcast is very much interested in networking features and the platform is still being developed and network features will be added in the future. Exactly which features are enabled will be up to the cable MSO. Also, KidZone is not currently part of this platform, but that is definitely coming.
I may be forgetting things, I’ll think about it more after some sleep.
As for the other photos – they have a display with the TGC box, with the Chinese interface (also shown last year), as well as the Spanish interface which will be deployed in Mexico. The Mexican deployment is using the standard S2DT hardware, it is just a UI change. I asked if we’ll see TiVos with a selectable UI – since there are non-English speakers in the US, of course. There aren’t plans for that right now, but it is certainly a possibility and the TiVo folks agreed that it makes sense. Personally, I think we’ll see that down the road.
They’re also showing off a new design for the TiVo website – and it is a radical change. The current design has been in place for several years now, and the new look reminded me a bit of iTunes 7 – and I overheard other people saying the same thing. It is a very slick design and I heard a number of appreciative comments about it. It may be live on the site later this month.
I also took a few photos of the new Roxio Toast 8 running on a Mac. The one closeup shows the option for TiVo style menus on burned DVDs, it looked fairly slick.
Finally, I took some general photos of their suite.
EDIT 01/11/07: Today was the last day of CES and I wandered back over to TiVo near the end of the day, and had a chance to ask a couple of questions before the show closed and they kicked me out to pack up.
I checked on some of the questions people have asked.
The current Comcast software does *not* have a ‘Native’ mode like the S3. it supports:
- 480i Fixed
- 480p Fixed
- 720p Fixed
- 1080i Fixed
- 720p Hybrid
- 1080i Hybrid
The hybrid modes are different than on the S3 – it means SD stats 480i, and HD is converted to the set resolution. Since the current software has the same issue, needing to be manually set to 720p or 1080i, with no ‘native’, maybe it is a deeper issue.
I also found out that some of the power of the box lives in a head-end server in the cable plant. For example, when you’re using the Search screen the first two characters you enter search locally in just the title, similar to TiVo today. But once you enter the third character it actually goes up to the server and does the extensive search in the title, episode title, and description. Most things are done locally, but since the boxes all have DOCSIS to talk to the head end, they use it.
There is a new 4x FF/RW speed. The person doing the demo didn’t know offhand what the speed was, but it looked very fast, I’m guessing 300x. So there is another sound too – one more pitch to the tone and you see four little arrows instead of the three we have today. FF/RW looks very responsive.
One thing I failed to mention, at least clearly, is that SPs and WLs have a setting to ‘get in HD if possible’, to prefer the HD version of a program if both SD and HD are available. To reiterate, Comcast is very interested in KidZone and network features. They will be coming, it is on the development road map. Right now the effort is to ship what they have in trials now and get it in the market, then update it later. Cable customers won’t really miss the features, since they don’t have them today. Keep in mind this software is aimed at cable customers using a cable DVR, and not existing TiVo users. Though, I think many TiVo users would be happy with the software even as it stands.
I also made my suggestion about Roxio releasing a lower price TTG product, just the Transfer and Player, and they said there is a possibility that Sonic could release a lower-priced SKU with a reduced feature set. And when I got back to my room I see TiVoBlog reporting that Roxio said pretty much the same thing at MacWorld.
I also asked about Closed Captions, and if they’re preserved when transfers are burned to DVD. The TiVo rep wasn’t positive, but believed that they are *not* preserved on the DVD.