Dave Zatz has Moxi

OK, so I mean ZatzNotFunny has a new article on Digeo Moxi. Dave got a private briefing from Digeo during last week’s Digital Experience show in NYC. Digeo announced last September that they were planning to bring Moxi to the consumer market this fall. There doesn’t seem to be any new info compared to what I reported from CES in January, or even more recently in May.

Dave has doubts about the Moxi Home Cinema HD DMR which pretty much match my own. It is basically an (expected to be expensive) AMD Live! Media Center PC running Linux, with no CableCARD support. Considering there are multiple Windows-based Media Center PCs on the market now with CableCARD, and more coming, I don’t see why anyone with the scratch to afford a high-end media center PC would opt for one that can’t natively tune encrypted digital cable. Since most HD digital cable channels are encrypted, that rather limits the usefulness. If you’re happy with using an antenna and/or limiting your cable to analog and in-the-clear QAM, I guess it works – but how many people buying high-end gear fit that description? I suspect not many.

The Moxi Multi-Room HD DMR sounds just like what was being shown at CES. The closest comparison would be the TiVo Series3. Like the S3, this is a dual-tuner CableCARD DVR. Unlike the S3 it is cable-only, no antenna support. Dave mentions that it is designed to use M-Card, so that one CableCARD will enabled both tuners. M-Card is just rolling out now, with most areas still issuing S-Card. (For example, I’ve asked and my local Charter system doesn’t have *any* M-Cards at this time, still 100% S-Card.) If the unit really does only have one slot, and cannot use two S-Cards like the S3, I hope that cable MSOs are fully on the M-Card bandwagon by the time this rolls out. There is a good chance they will be, especially now as they need to use CableCARD in their own boxes, as of July 1st.

The biggest difference compared to the S3 is that the Moxi is designed to support viewing from multiple rooms via a ‘Moxi Mate’ client box. Digeo is using a FireWire-over-coax system to connect Moxi Mate units to the main unit using the existing cable runs. This is fine if you have cable linking the different locations, but not so great if your don’t. And this is intended to be the only method of linking the locations – no Ethernet or WiFi. Still, if you have the cabling, it is a nice system. You can access pretty much anything on the primary Moxi from the Moxi Mate.

The other key difference is that the Moxi has a built-in CD/DVD drive. It can be used as your DVD player – no word on if it does upscaling and such, so you don’t need another box. It can also play CDs, and it will rip CDs to the internal drive for later playback, including via the Moxi Mate. Personally I’d never use that, I rip all my music on my PC in iTunes and store it there – I wouldn’t want music using up my DVR’s drive capacity. And if it is still like it was shown at CES, the settings are fixed – there is no way to adjust the bit rate, rip to other formats (like AAC), etc. Fortunately the Moxi also streams music and photos from PCs on the network, similar to TiVo’s functionality. The Moxi has an Ethernet port, but no support for WiFi. For WiFi it looks like you’ll need an external WiFi bridge, or something like a WiFi gaming adapter.

The built-in CD/DVD capability could be nice, it it certainly adds cost to the unit. I really wonder if it is worth it. Most homes already have at least one DVD player, often more than one. And there are very cheap, yet good, DVD players available that do full upscaling. Considering it is built into a high-end, HD DVR, it had better be a very good DVD player with all the bells and whistles. Of course, the market most likely to spend top dollar on an HD DVR is the same market most likely to buy Blu-ray or HD DVD. I think Digeo might be better off leaving out the CD/DVD capability and bringing the price down instead. Unlike TiVo’s past DVD systems, the Moxi is just a player, not a burner. So you can’t transfer recordings to DVD.

Dave has a number of screen shots in his post, which look pretty much the same as I saw at CES in January, maybe refreshed a little. Some people prefer Moxi’s UI look and feel as being more ‘clean’ than TiVo, and I can see that. TiVo’s UI does feel a little dated, it hasn’t really changed since 1999. It still works, but I did rather like the changes in the OCAP software TiVo was showing at CES. It still felt like TiVo, but more modern. It would be nice to see that refresh applied to the standalone boxes too.

If Digeo delivers on their promises, I think the Moxi boxes will be fairly decent technologically. But I’m still not sure they can carve out a significant niche in the market at this point, especially if the rumored prices (around $1,000) are true. Even with a $800 MSRP, and an effective $600 street price, the TiVo Series3 is felt to be too expensive. Back at CES, Digeo said they would sell the box with no subscription. That would certainly make a high price a better value. $1,000 for a box with nothing more to buy is more attractive than $1,000 plus a subscription fee.

But one thing TiVo and ReplayTV showed the world is that people balk at high up-front prices. The market preferred lower purchase pricing with service fees. When ReplayTV tried to sell ‘all-in-one’ and TiVo offered a monthly option, TiVo ate their lunch – even though a TiVo with lifetime cost the same as a ReplayTV, which included lifetime. And, later, when TiVo tested lower hardware pricing with the option for a higher monthly fee, more people opted for the bundles than the higher up-front costs with a lower monthly fee. So relying on a higher up-front fee has some risks. And Digeo also said that additional features would be sold a la carte, so they’ll have some ability to generate additional revenue.

Also, TiVo has a new, lower-priced HD box due this fall. And the pricing on the current S3 is generally expected to drop when the new box is launched. So Digeo will be up against a couple of TiVo models with lower price points – is the Moxi Mate and a CD/DVD drive enough to justify a higher price? What if TiVo gets MRV and TTG working on the S3?

It should be interesting. I hope Digeo starts talking about details soon – pricing, service plans, hard drive capacity, etc. I think they need to have this out in September at the latest, to catch the holiday shopping season. That’s not that far off now.

I’d be happy to get a Moxi and set it up alongside my S3 and use them both, to see how they really stack up. I have long said that I felt Moxi was the best potential competition for TiVo, especially after ReplayTV imploded. But I suspect I’m not high on Digeo’s reviewer list. ;-)

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  • http://www.zatznotfunny.com Dave Zatz

    The only new stuff is that I’ve now seen a working model of one of the boxes and that they’ve decided to bundle the Moxi Mate with the Multi-Room version which is something they were still debating the last time I talked. I think they’ve almost got a major retailer lined up and the eSATA support has successfully been tested up to 1TB so far. ASUS is an ODM for the Home Cinema AMD Live Linux platform. There’s probably more info that I forgot to type up as have been asked to hold back. The interface is very similar to what’s deployed with Charter and others – but some of the advanced functionality obviously won’t be filtered by a stodgy MSO.

  • Rick

    “If you’re happy with using an antenna and/or limiting your cable to analog and in-the-clear QAM, I guess it works – but how many people buying high-end gear fit that description? I suspect not many.”

    The funny thing is that if you want to have the best possible HD experience and/or want to get the most of your high-end gear, off-air antenna is the only way. Cables HD quality is simply not good enough, not as good as over-the-air broadcasts.

    I’ve got a small log-periodic terk antenna and enjoy every high definition moment. Of course, terk is far from being a good antenna, channelmaster and winegard have much better performers, but what I am saying is that even with this junk you can have much better HDTV than cables if you live in a big city close to the towers.