Seven Ready To Roll Out 500GB eSATA Drive And Expand Retail Presence

Smarthouse reports that Seven Network is ready to begin offering the 500GB eSATA add-on drive for the Australian TiVo. The description given in their report seems to imply that it may be more locked down than in the US:

“The storage device will be exclusive to the TiVo and will record HD Television. Consumers will not be able to attach the device to other computers or recorders. The TiVo software will automatically see the device and record to it when the storage built into the device is full”.

In the US, of course, it is a standard Western Digital 500GB eSATA My DVR Expander, and the same drive works with Scientific Atlanta cable DVRs as well as with any PC that supports eSATA. Now, this could simply be the ‘Seven Media insider’ who was talking to Smarthouse not knowing that they were talking about. It is true that once you attach a drive to the TiVo it is formatted for the TiVo and you cannot them connect it to another device without reformatting it. But eSATA is eSATA and the drive can be reformatted and reused. I tend to suspect that will actually be the case in Australia too.

Smarthouse also says Seven is set to roll out the TiVo to other retailers, now that Harvey Norman’s three month exclusive is up, including retailer Dick Smith. (What is it with Australian retailers and guys names?) Retailer JB Hi Fi CEO Richard Uechtritz says they still haven’t decided if they will stock TiVo.

Interestingly this story comes just one day after Smarthouse posted a rumor mongering story entitled “Is Seven Media Set To Dump Tivo?” In that story they claimed that ‘Seven Media insiders’ told them that sales through Harvey Norman failed to hit targets and that they were now ‘reviewing their options’. They also said it was “slammed by reviewers.” And pulled this bit from the Australian PC Magazine:

PC Magazine wrote “unlike its US counterpart, the Aussie TiVo is a crippled box. Shipping with a 160GB HD, the TiVo allows you to record up to a pathetic 32 hours of HD or 62 of SD television.

Having personally read a lot of reviews of the Australian TiVo, I have to wonder about the agenda behind this particular Smarthouse article. The reviews of the Australian TiVo have been overwhelmingly positive. Yes, there are issues, and probably the primary one is the hard drive size. But APC was also off base saying it was ‘crippled’ compared to the US box – it has the same 160GB drive. It has lacked the option for eSATA expansion available in the US, but, as above, that’s coming. And calling 32 hours of HD ‘pathetic’? A wee bit of hyperbole. That’s more recording time than the original TiVo models had at all. And more than the TiVo HD has in the US (we tend to have higher bitrates, apparently.) And most users are happy with it. I remember reading that APC ‘review’ when it first appeared, particularly because it was probably the single harshest review of the lot and the only one that I recall being wholly negative. It seemed like the author started out looking for reasons to slam the TiVo. It read more like a rant than a review.

Smarthouse goes on to say “A key problem for Seven Media is content and the emergence of IPTV which will allow consumers to download movies and other content to a HD TV screen.” Yet the author doesn’t say why this is a problem. This is odd, especially since Seven Network has stated that this is specifically not a problem, quite the opposite, since the TiVo will also server as their IPTV gateway into the home. It struck me as very strange that the author would lay this out as a problem with nothing to support the argument when Seven’s stated plans for TiVo include broadband content delivery and IPTV features.

Smarthouse then goes on to talk about Nero’s LiquidTV and declares it a threat to Seven’s TiVo offering. But while they mention it goes on sale October 15th, they fail to mention that’s only in the US, Canada, and Mexico. And really, those who will opt for an HTPC are mostly a different market from those who will opt for an STB. LiquidTV | TiVo PC is no more a thread to Seven’s TiVo box than it is a threat to standalone TiVos in the US – basically none. And that, of course, hinges on some future launch of a version for Australia. The North American version won’t do any good as you need an EPG feed to use it.

The whole article just seemed like sensationalism without any real evidence to back it up, just rumors and unfounded speculation.

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  • Matt

    Two things:

    1) Smarthouse is a well-known plagiarist with pretty much no journalistic standards. Ignore them, they don’t originate anything anyway;

    2) The people who really got in to DVB-T PVRs here prior to TiVo entering the market are, for the most part, extremely hostile to TiVo. Knowing the way IT magazines/etc operate they’ll have farmed the reviews out to people with an existing interest in the area. These are the people with MythTV or WMC boxes with terabytes of storage, hence “crippled” and “pathetic”.

    I’m one of that small group of pre-TiVo PVR users who’ve done both homebrew and commercial PVRs who, despite some small misgivings, thinks that TiVo is simply the best experience in the field right now. Most of the enthusiasts do not agree, but then they’ve also not tried it.

    A lot of the talk pre-launch indicated that the Australian TiVo was going to be heavily crippled by Seven. Turned out to be rubbish. I would expect that the expander disk will be the same story.