TiVo Releases TiVo Desktop 2.6, Enables Web Video Support

As I originally reported from CES TiVo Desktop 2.6 adds support for Web Video, if you purchase the TiVo Desktop Plus upgrade. And TiVo is making Desktop 2.6 for Windows available starting today. Since all TiVo units currently only support MPEG-2 video, this works by using TiVo Desktop Plus to transcode web video from whichever format is is distributed in (H..264, Quicktime, etc) into MPEG-2 and then transferring it to the TiVo. There are two ways to do this ‘native’ feeds and folder monitoring.

With the native feeds you can select one of the video feeds pre-selected by TiVo from the new interface on your TiVo. These feeds use the RSS client built into TiVo Desktop to download the videos. Unfortunately, only videos listed by TiVo can use the built-in RSS engine. There is no interface to add your own feeds. For unlisted feeds you need to use another client, such as iTunes. You then have TiVo Desktop monitor the download folder used by that external client. When a new video is downloaded into that folder TiVo Desktop will automatically transcode and transfer it. That does mean you can have TiVo Desktop monitor any folder to transcode and transfer – which could include a BitTorrent folder, etc.

Since this news just broke this morning, I’m working on a more detailed look at the software and hope to have my review up in the next day or two. Note that this functionality does require the purchase of TiVo Desktop Plus for $24.95, since that licenses the codecs needed for transcoding. And this is limited to Windows, while TiVo says:“TiVo continues to work with Roxio on delivering equivalent functionality on the Mac platform.”

There are other improvements in TiVo Desktop 2.6, such as the ability to publish multiple video folders for access from the TiVo. Unfortunately, and very disappointingly, the content of these folders is all lumped into the single group in the TiVo’s Now Playing List, so we’re still lacking folder support for PC content. Very frustrating. If you have a TiVo Series3 or TiVo HD, 2.6 will also provide higher quality transfers. HD content will be transcoded as 720p video. AC3 audio will be preserved. And it has better handling of different aspect ratios. And even SD video gets a higher bit rate.

Certainly welcome additional functionality overall. Still, transcoding through the PC is a stop-gap for the Series3 & TiVo HD until native H.264 and WMV/VC-1 decoding is supported. That will allow those units to download the majority of web videos directly. I’ll have more to say once I’ve had time to do my full write up.

In the mean time, here’s TiVo’s press release for Desktop 2.6:

TiVo Gives Consumers an Easy Way to Download Internet Video Automatically to Their Television Sets

First announced at CES, Season Pass™ functionality applied to web video now available

ALVISO, Calif. – March 18, 2008 — TiVo (NASDAQ: TIVO), the creator of and a leader in television services for digital video recorders (DVRs), today announced TiVo® subscribers can now watch video content from the Web directly on their television sets. Through an updated version of TiVo’s Desktop Plus PC software, users can now discover and enjoy a broad range of Web entertainment available directly from their TV. The simple application, which uses the popular Season Pass™ functionality, continues to deliver on TiVo’s pledge to offer consumers an easy way to search, discover and enjoy the broad range of entertainment no matter what the source.

Starting today, TiVo users can subscribe to and watch a broad range of video content available through Real Simple Syndication (“RSS”) feeds, including everything from network nightly newscasts and The Sesame Street Podcast to Daily Headlines from MTV News and College Humor from CHTV. The application also gives consumers access to niche interest and hobbyist videos covering areas far more specialized than cable and satellite channels.

The availability of the Web video comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that TiVo subscribers will be able to access YouTube™ videos directly on the TV via a TiVo DVR later this year. Upon launch of the TiVo-YouTube service, TiVo users will be able to search, browse and watch these videos directly on their television sets.

“TiVo users will have the best video from the Web easily available on their television sets from user generated as well as brand named sites,” said Tara Maitra, Vice President and General Manager of Content Services at TiVo.

The new Web video capability requires TiVo Desktop Plus 2.6, an update to the Windows application which also converts TV shows recorded on a TiVo DVR for viewing on portable devices including iPod and Sony PlayStation™ Portable. TiVo Desktop Plus 2.6 is available for a one-time fee of $24.95, and is a free upgrade to earlier versions. “TiVo continues to work with Roxio on delivering equivalent functionality on the Mac platform.”

With this new feature, users can choose web videos downloaded on the home PC using web browsers, RSS video clients such as iTunes podcasts, or other video download software to automatically copy to their TiVo DVR’s Now Playing List alongside recorded broadcast and cable TV shows. TiVo is also providing an on-screen guide of select Web video sources for users to browse and select as individual episodes or get a Season Pass™. Subscribers can even use the TiVo service’s Season Pass functionality to get their own personal video folders on their PC, where they save their home movies and other video downloads. High Definition television enthusiasts will appreciate that TiVo preserves the original quality of high-resolution web videos, up to 720p, when delivered to TiVo Series3 or TiVo HD DVRs.

Maitra added, “Through the addition of new applications such as web video, we continue to build towards our goal of making TiVo the one stop shop for content, through one box and one integrated user interface. With our combination of premium content available through Amazon Unbox, millions of songs via Rhapsody and music videos, and soon YouTube videos, we feel like we’re connecting consumers to entertainment in a way no one else can.”

For more information on TiVo or to download TiVo Desktop Plus visit www.tivo.com/desktop.


About TiVo Inc.
Founded in 1997, TiVo (NASDAQ: TIVO) pioneered a brand new category of products with the development of the first commercially available digital video recorder (DVR). Sold through leading consumer electronic retailers, TiVo has developed a brand that resonates boldly with consumers as providing a superior television experience. Through agreements with leading satellite and cable providers, TiVo also integrates its full set of DVR service features into the set-top boxes of mass distributors. TiVo’s DVR functionality and ease of use, with such features as Season Pass™ recordings and WishList® searches and TiVo KidZone has elevated its popularity among consumers and has created a whole new way for viewers to watch television. With a continued investment in its patented technologies, TiVo is revolutionizing the way consumers watch and access home entertainment. Rapidly becoming the focal point of the digital living room, TiVo’s DVR is at the center of experiencing new forms of content on the TV, such as broadband delivered video, music and photos. With innovative features, such as TiVoToGo™ transfers and online scheduling, TiVo is expanding the notion of consumers experiencing “TiVo, TV your way.®” The TiVo® service is also at the forefront of providing innovative marketing solutions for the television industry, including a unique platform for advertisers and audience measurement research. The company is based in Alviso, Calif.

TiVo, Season Pass, WishList, ‘TiVo, TV your way.’ and the TiVo Logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of TiVo Inc. or its subsidiaries in the United States and other jurisdictions. © 2008 TiVo Inc. All rights reserved.

This release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements relate to, among other things, the availability later this year of the YouTube service to TiVo subscribers with broadband-connected TiVo Series3™ DVRs. Forward-looking statements generally can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as, “believe,” “expect,” “may,” “will,” “intend,” “estimate,” “continue,” or similar expressions or the negative of those terms or expressions. Such statements involve risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results to vary materially from those expressed in or indicated by the forward-looking statements. Factors that may cause actual results to differ materially include delays in development, competitive service offerings and lack of market acceptance, as well as the other potential factors described under “Risk Factors” in the Company’s public reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2007, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q for the three months ended April 30, 2007, July 31, 2007, and October 31, 2007, and Current Reports on Form 8-K. The Company cautions you not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements, which reflect an analysis only and speak only as of the date hereof. TiVo disclaims any obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

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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  • http://www.autoworksphoto.com Jay

    Ok, I just don’t get it. We are paying $25 in order to…..reduce their bandwidth and storage bills for Tivocast? Yes, I understand that this allows MORE than what they have been Tivocasting, but their lack of content is their problem to fix, not ours to pay for. Oh, and I still can only use the feeds that they decide on, even with my $25.

    Of course, they argue that the $25 goes to pay for the codecs. Why the heck aren’t they using open source projects for the transcoding instead? It’s not like they aren’t using open source throughout the Tivo software itself….

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ MegaZone

    It is more complex than that. And the fee *is* for the codecs. For the Web Video transfers to work the TiVo Desktop must transcode from the web format, like H.264, for MPEG-2 for the TiVo. And that requires the codec pack. Without the codecs the web video function would be worthless.

    And it isn’t saving anything on TiVo’s bandwidth and storage bills – they don’t host the existing TiVoCast videos either. The partner sites host them, TiVo just includes them in the system. But it requires the partner sites to specially encode their videos in MPEG-2 just for TiVo. Imagine trying to get all webcasters to encode in MPEG-2 – not going to happen.

    And I don’t know where you got the idea that you can only use the feeds they decide on, but that’s wrong. You can use the pre-selected feeds listed on the box, or you can point TD2.6 at any folder on your PC and it will automatically transcode and transfer any new videos that appear in those folders. I already have mine grabbing podcasts I subscribe to in iTunes and transferring them to my TiVo – and they’re not listed in TiVo’s default lineup.

    And they can’t use open source codecs – the open source codecs are, frankly, illegal. The algorithms are patented – MPEG-2, MPEG-4/AVC, WMV/VC-1, etc, all have required licenses. The open source implementations violate the patents on the algorithms involved. The rights holders can’t do too much about it with the OS movement, but they could sue TiVo if they used them. Which is why you don’t see the OS versions of the codecs being used in commercial products.

    Well, technically they could use the OS versions of the codecs – but they’d still have to pay the license fees on the patents anyway, or get sued.

    Just because something has been implemented in OS doesn’t mean it is actually legal to use. It may be legal in some countries, where the technology isn’t patented, and not in others, where it is. Back in the day that’s why OS SSL implementations were written outside the US. The RSA algorithm, used in SSL, was patented in the US and usage required paying for a license. But it wasn’t protected in many other countries, so the community did their work there. Individuals could download the code and use it in the US – but technically it wasn’t legal to do so, and commercial products at the time charged for SSL support to cover the license. (For example, at the time Apache did not include SSL because of this – but there were commercial variants, like RavenSSL, which you could buy which did.)

  • http://www.autoworksphoto.com Jay

    Ok, good point on the questionable legality of the codecs.

    But what if I already have legitimate codecs on my system? Unable to use them – gotta pay Tivo…

    But how about this – is Tivo going to refund my $25 once they enable h.264 in my TivoHD? We all know it’s coming – and the need for that codec support wouldn’t be required for the majority of feeds at that time.

    I’m aware of the auto folder support (forgot to mention that) – but this gets GREATLY away from the “Tivo experience”. It’s something that the rest of my family would NEVER be able to setup and use.

    With these types of features, they really are trying to compete with AppleTV (which admittedly isn’t a perfect box either). Unfortunately, even with the $25 fee, they still can’t compare to the experience for podcasts or rentals.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love my Tivos. And I like my AppleTV. But I’m somewhat tired of the features being developed only for the technical minority, and charging for them at that. Unless they really resume innovating in regards to mass-market features, I’m concerned that they’re never going to make the jump to profitability…

  • http://www.autoworksphoto.com Jay

    And btw, I find it ironic that the title for their press release is “TiVo Gives Consumers an Easy Way to Download Internet Video Automatically to Their Television Sets”. Should have started with “TiVo Charges Consumers for…” ;)

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ MegaZone

    True, TiVo could let users use other codecs. But I doubt most TiVo users are tech savvy enough to sort that out. And TiVo is about making things simple. The geeks most likely to use their own codecs are those most likely to use something like pyTiVo instead of TiVo Desktop.

    I know the codec refund was a rhetorical question, but I’m sure they won’t be.

    The auto-folder support is really simple – anyone capable of installing TiVo Desktop is capable of following the wizard to monitor a folder. The hardest part would be knowing where the folders are for tools like iTunes. Users who are so non-technical as to not be able to do it are probably not looking to watch podcasts, I’d think. I don’t think my parents even know what podcasts are.

    TiVo is limited in what they can do with the current hardware, so they’re doing what they can for the existing users. There isn’t really much more they can do as a DVR, there are only so many useful features. Adding access to more content is a big deal for non-technical users too.

  • Kristi

    Ok, for one…I’m not paying for tivo desktop…I’m just not. I can watch vids from my comp with my hdmi cable, so that would be pointless. But heres my question; If I have an old version of Tivo Desktop, lets say 2.5, can I still transfer videos from my computer to my tivo or will this stop working? So far, I convert them, and it says there are no recordings. Thanks for any help anyone can provide.

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ MegaZone

    The digital certificate in 2.5 expired and transfers no longer work. You need 2.6.1 or better for it to work. You should just upgrade – and you don’t have to purchase TiVo Desktop Plus to install 2.6.1.

    There is also a certificate update available for the older desktops to get them working again, but it is easier to just install the current desktop.