When I reported on the release of the 9.4 software for the TiVo Series3 & TiVo HD on Tuesday, I speculated on whether the update also included the promised YouTube support. Well, that question has been answered – it is in there, and Dave Zatz got a look at it and to keep things circular, he posted a video of it to YouTube. Since this was only announced on March 12, 2008 it is nice to see it coming out so soon.
9.4 enables native H.264 decoding on the S3 & HD, required for YouTube support. What is not known is if there decoding support has been extended to other areas as well, such as video podcasts. If so, it could eliminate transcoding on a PC via TiVo Web Video, at least for video podcasts in H.264 – which is many, if not most, of them. I’m hoping the H.264 support does apply to other video sources, it would make life much easier. TiVo Web Video is OK, but not ideal.
Speaking of, allow me a small digression…
I realize I never did pull together a review of TiVo Desktop 2.6 as I’d said I would. I’ve been pretty busy and it got away from me. And, honestly, I’ve had so many problems with it that each time I think about writing it up I just get upset again. I recently had TiVo Web Video forget all of the podcasts I’d subscribed to, twice in two days! I noticed it wasn’t transferring anything after a couple of days, and when I checked the config file it was back to default – all the subscriptions gone. So I restored them and it started transferring again, so I went to bed. The next day it had stopped, and the file was wiped out, again! I wiped everything and started from scratch and it has been working for over a week now. And this isn’t the first time this happened, early on it lost all the subscriptions too. Of course, since TiVo Web Video, unlike TiVoCast, doesn’t just start with the most recent recording and move forward, but insists on downloading and transcoding back episodes as well (default is 5), it would re-download and re-transfer everything. It literally takes a few days for my PC to suck down all the backlog (I subscribe to a number of podcasts) and transfer it. So when this happens it is a major pain in the posterior.
And it doesn’t clean up after itself, I found over ten gigabytes of abandoned downloaded recordings sitting the the Downloads directory. Recordings it should’ve deleted after transferring to the TiVo. It just slowly uses up the drive. The leaking seems to vary – right now there are two files from back on 7/8 totally about 50MB. But all it takes is a few long-form HD podcasts to be missed and it adds up fast. Those are just a couple of the problems with it. Don’t get me wrong, having it is better than not having it at all, but it is far from a stable solution, let alone ideal. But I digress, I really should make myself write up all the issues and such.
Back to the topic at hand..,
So anyway, I would really love to see TiVo allow the S3/HD to download H.264 podcasts directly, bypassing the PC. Heck, as an interim even if they downloaded to the PC but skipped transcoding and just transferred to the TiVo as-is it would speed things up a great deal. Transcoding really slows things down.
Dave got a look at what is apparently a pre-release version of the software, so the final release could vary, but probably won’t. YouTube is added as another option under the TiVo Central -> Find Programs & Downloads -> Download TV, Movies, & Web Video menu item. It looks like the screen has been retitled from ‘Video Downloads’ to ‘Broadband Video’, which may be a reflection of the fact that TiVo is now streaming video and not just downloading it. The ‘Movies & TiVo from Amazon Unbox’ link has been changed to ‘Amazon Unbox TV & Movies’, which I think sounds better. And just below that, slotting in above ‘Brows Other Videos’ is a new link entitled, simply, ‘YouTube’.
The only sub-option at this time is ‘Watch YouTube Videos’, and once you select that you get into the YouTube HME application interface proper. The color scheme reminds me of the current Music Choice application. Within the application you can select Featured Videos, Most Recent, Search, Top Favorites, Most Viewed, or Top Rated. Each selection then has sub-selections. The interface looks pretty good, and you can even rate the videos 1-5 stars, just as you can online.
From Dave’s video I don’t see a way to link this application with your YouTube account, which would be nice. I’d like to be able to pull up the subscriptions I have on YouTube from my TiVo. And to have ratings from one location be reflected in the other. Being able to subscribe or favorite a video on the TiVo and having it show up online would be nice. But this is the first release, and from what I can see it looks good. This could always be a future enhancement.
UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this I was looking over some other blogs and over at Gizmodo I saw that TiVo will indeed be adding the ability to login to your YouTube account, in an update due eight weeks out.
Dave also tacked a quick look at the Tuning Adapter and Network Remote Control screens at the end of the video. He says we can expect the official press release later today, and the application may start showing up on TiVos with 9.4 as early as today (Thursday) as well. TiVo has a new page on their site as well: http://www.tivo.com/youtube
Now that TiVo has support for H.264 and streaming video, I’m hopeful we’ll see more features using them. Aside from the aforementioned video podcast support, TiVo could support Amazon’s upcoming video streaming service, HD video downloads (most HD downloads use H.264), perhaps even streaming video between TiVo units, or from a PC to a TiVo.
I’m still waiting to receive 9.4 myself, can’t wait to play with this.
(And no Dave, you’re not the only one still waiting for Tekzilla. )