Philips, as you may recall, was one of TiVo’s early manufacturing partners, producing Series1 TiVos along with Sony. Well, WashingtonPost.com is reporting that Philips is now developing their own DVR software, called the Personal TV Channel system, which includes a features until now associated with TiVo – Suggestions. Well, they don’t call it that, but the Philips software will learn viewers’ tastes and record or suggest additional content. And it goes TiVo one better – while TiVo has one Suggestions ‘bucket’ for the entire unit, the Philips software can track the tastes of multiple users independently. That is something I’ve seen TiVo users request in the past.
Philips’ software is also able to monitor the preferences of multiple users within the same household. Each household member can create his or her own channel, or share common channels such as blockbuster movies.
The article has one error in that it says TiVo users must explicitly tell the system if they like a program.
TiVo offers a similar feature, TiVo Suggestions, but users must tell the system explicitly whether they like a program, and it learns and makes guesses about what else they could like based on that.
That is not true – when you setup a Season Pass for a show or deliberately request a recording, the program automatically receives one ‘Thumb Up’ and it will learn from that. TiVo goes beyond that by allowing you to explicitly rate content up or down. But it is ‘self-learning’ just as the Philips software is. And, based on the article, it sounds like the Philips software lacks the explicit rating capability of TiVo.
The Philips software is intended for both PCs as well as set-top boxes, and they’re showing off a prototype at the IFA show in Berlin, Germany – which runs through Wednesday. It also includes an Electronic Program Guide that Philips is developing with partners. That should be interesting, as EPG’s run into all manner of legal tangles as the laws vary country to country, as to who owns the rights to the data.
One interesting feature is a function that finds and ‘records’ content from the Internet, such as YouTube videos and podcasts, in addition to TV content. That sounds like a step beyond what TiVo offers with TiVoCast and podcast support, automatically going out and grabbing content. Considering how many tons of crap are out there, and the few gold nuggets, I’m not sure how useful that will be. The PC version is to be available as a free download for Windows Vista uses in early 2008, and Philips is shopping the software to STB makers.
Free DVR software with advanced features and an EPG? Too good to be true? Of course! The catch? Advertising. Philips plans to profit from the software via personalized advertising built into the software. So the profiles it develops won’t just help the software find you more content, it will help target you with ads. Of course, TiVo also has ads in their UI, and depending on how they implement it, it might not be too bad. We’ll have to see how it looks when and if it launches.