PlayStation3 to run TiVo software!… probably not

When I initially saw this report I let it pass as not worth reporting on. But then things snowballed and I really think people are getting ahead of themselves. What am I talking about?

Well, on Tuesday the New Zealand newspaper The Press ran an article entitled The future according to Sony which contained a number of subjects. But there was one statement from Sony Entertainment New Zealand’s Warwick Light that people latched on to:

“We’re also hoping next year – about the same time that Freeview launches its terrestrial broadcasting service (expected to be in March) – to release a digital tuner for the PS3, turning it into a programmable TV recorder.”

OK, first of all, they ‘hope’ to release something next year. It may or may not happen. It would not be the first time that a vendor floated future plans and then didn’t pursue them. If it does happen, they’re talking about a DVB-T system in New Zealand. DVB-T, and other DVB variants, are widely used worldwide – but not in the US. Broadcast digital television in the US uses ATSC, which is only used by a handful or other countries – Canada and Mexico (no surprise, bordering on the US and with major cross-border trade), South Korea, and Honduras. ATSC is not compatible with DVB, so a tuner for New Zealand doesn’t necessarily imply anything about the US. Our digital cable system uses CableCARD for access, and we’re the only country in the world to use them.

If Sony were to launch a DVR feature in the US, they’d need to make a US specific tuner. They’d almost certainly need to support CableCARD to have any market acceptance, as the OTA market is comparatively small. So, it is already a bit of a leap to go from the statement about a possible tuner and DVR feature in New Zealand to anticipating such a feature in the US.

But it got taken a step further. GameDaily remembered that Sony licensed TiVo’s patents and that license is in effect until October 2008.

Just yesterday, we talked to SCEA’s Dave Karraker about the agreement that Sony Electronics, Inc. has with TiVo. Back in 2001, Sony and TiVo signed an agreement that would allow Sony to feature TiVo software. While Sony has offered standalone TiVo (SVR 2000 & 3000) machines along with a DirecTiVo (T60) receiver, Sony hasn’t made much use of the agreement.

Considering that the original contract is scheduled to end in October 2008, there’s still time. With TiVo’s growing list of patents and U.S.-based user base, which should grow as a TiVo-enabled Comcast digital receiver releases, adding DVR capabilities via a unit that would decode channels through the CableCard interface seems theoretically possible.

Then Kotaku and Gizmodo picked up the story as well. And it has spread to other sites, with people speculating on the possibility of the PS3 running TiVo’s software. I’ve even seen some people asking if they should hold off on buying the new TiVo HD because the PS3 might do this.

Folks, calm down. Yes, Sony has licensed patents from TiVo and they formerly produced units that ran the TiVo software – the SAT-T60 DirecTiVo and the SVR-2000 and SVR-3000 standalone units. But they haven’t produced a TiVo-based unit in years. Sony has produced other DVRs – the DHG HD CableCARD DVRs sold in the US, and a number of DVRs sold in Japan – including the PSX which was a PS2-based DVR. Some of the units sold in Japan even included a small TiVo logo on the back – but did not use the TiVo interface. Sony has also developed their own Giga Pocket DVR software for their Vaio PC line.

If Sony were to bring DVR functionality to the PS3 in the US, it is unlikely that it would be running the TiVo software. It is more likely that it would be an in-house development using the XMB, Cross Media Bar, interface already featured on the PS3 and PSP. Especially since the XMB interface was originally developed for… anyone? …the PSX DVR in Japan.

If Sony does this, they may well extend their license with TiVo to cover TiVo’s patent rights. But I strongly doubt that they would license the actual TiVo code base and port it to the PS3. Since the hardware in the PS3 is entirely different from the hardware in the current TiVo platforms – down to the most basic levels – that would be a task. It might even be easier to bring the cable OCAP software over, since the PS3 already supports BD-Java as a Blu-ray player, and OCAP and BD-J are in the same family.

The point is, people are getting carried away. I think Sony may add DVR functionality to the PS3, but it sounds like it will be next year if they do. And if they do, it is very unlikely to be TiVo’s software. Absolutely no details are known, even fundamental issues such as single- or dual-tuner. It is certainly interesting, but things have really spun up from one simple comment. Take a deep breath and relax.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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  • Scarymike

    Thanks for clearing that up.

  • HDTiVo

    I can back you up. The speculation is rediculous.

  • HDTiVo

    But I would add that the first part of you article about tuners, cableCARDs and broadcast standards is virtually irrelevant to the issue.