Remember a couple of months ago when the telnet interface to control HD TiVos was uncovered? As expected, the user development community has been hard at work producing tools to take advantage of this capability. And one of the most polished developments has tivoremote, for jail-broken iPhones. It is still very much a development project, but it has a decent UI – as seen here. And it can auto-detect compatible TiVos on your network. And it uses the TiVoToGo XML interface to download a list of the recordings from your TiVo to display on the iPhone for selection.
I love developments like this, they really show what the user community is capable of doing. At the same time, however, it is extremely frustrating and disappointing. Why? Because it is just a hint of what we could have if TiVo would only open up some APIs and publish them. If we can have interesting tools like this based on reverse engineering efforts of undocumented interfaces just imagine what could be done if TiVo would officially publish more of the APIs and enhance them. For example, the largest problem with the telnet control interface is that there is limited positive feedback of the status of the commands. If the commands returned the screen the unit was on, etc, you could truly remotely navigate the system. Currently developers have to rely on certain patterns being deterministic, which could break any time TiVo updates the software and changes the menus in any way.
TiVo could really engage the development community just by making some simple interfaces on the units more open. While ReplayTV did a number of things wrong, and ended up folding, one of the things they did right was having an extensive network API. This allowed the ReplayTV users to develop DVArchive, a very nice freeware tool. Their API extended to searching the EPG and scheduling new recordings, viewing lists of upcoming recordings, and more. I’d love to see community tools like this for TiVo.
Maybe someday TiVo will embrace the user development community and publish more APIs. In the meantime we still get to enjoy tools like these due to the efforts of the community.