Way back in September, 2008, TiVo and DirecTV re-united and promised a new DirecTV DVR with TiVo (aka DirecTiVo) ‘in the second half of 2009′. Well, as 2009 rolled along the new box was delayed until late 2010. This has generally been blamed on the economic collapse and DirecTV cutting back on things like R&D spending, shuffling priorities, etc. Which is, frankly, quite understandable. A lot of companies had to re-prioritize for the new economic environment.
So as we approached late 2010 DirecTV delayed the new DirecTiVo again, this time to ‘early 2011′. The explanation at the time was that they didn’t want to launch a new product into the channel just before the holidays. OK, I guess I can see that. A lot of retailers lock down holidays plans months in advance, and if DirecTV waited too long they wouldn’t have any shelf space allocated for the new units. You want to launch a new product in time for the holidays, not during the holiday shopping season – and product launches start months ahead of when consumers see the product.
Of course, ‘early 2011′ has come and gone, and clearly the new DirecTiVo has yet to arrive. At some point ‘early 2011′ morphed into ’2011′, and qualifiers like ‘hopeful’ started to show up. There was even some recent speculation that the new DirecTiVo might ship this month.
However, those hopes appear to be dashed. Now the DirecTV FAQ page for the new DirecTiVo says they are ‘optimistic’ that it will be available for purchase in 2011, but also that it has not yet been approved for production.
Will DIRECTV offer a new TiVo HD DVR?
We continue our partnership with TiVo to develop a new TiVo HD DVR from DIRECTV. The launch date is still to be determined, pending production approval. Product development is a complex exercise, and TiVo and DIRECTV are jointly committed to providing our customers with the high quality products we are both known for.
We apologize that the process has taken longer than anticipated. Once the product is approved for production, we will communicate a target launch date. We are optimistic that the new TiVo HD DVR from DIRECTV will be available for purchase in calendar year 2011.
For now we can tell you that the new TiVo HD DVR will have:
- Access to over 160 HD channels
- DIRECTV CINEMA™, with thousands of shows and movies to watch instantly
- TiVo Integrated Search across TV and Video on Demand
- TiVo WishList® Searches, Suggestions and KidZone
- DIRECTV DVR Scheduler
Personally that doesn’t fill me with confidence.
Now, I want to make an important point here – I don’t think this is TiVo’s fault. A lot of people have complained at/to TiVo about the delays, but they’re not in control. Remember this is a DirecTV product, not a TiVo product! TiVo is a supplier and contractor to DirecTV for this. Unlike the original DirecTiVo boxes, the new unit is not based on a TiVo-designed reference platform. It was previously announced that the hardware will be supplied by Technicolor (formerly known as Thomson), and TiVo is integrating their software with the platform under contract to DirecTV.
DirecTV controls the schedule, they control the product specifications, they decide on the features, they control the budget, etc. For a while now TiVo has been mentioning the new box on their quarterly calls and clearly stating that they hope DirecTV will decide to release it soon, but that the decision rests with DirecTV. On the most recent call TiVo’s CEO, Tom Rogers, stated that there was continuing work to implement new features for the product and he was hopeful it would ship in 2011.
There have been rumors and reports that the DirecTiVo is already out of date, that DirecTV’s specs for the unit were set in 2008 and in the meantime they’ve added a number of features to their non-TiVo DVRs (in-home sharing, etc.) which wouldn’t be on the DirecTiVo. A long time ago now it was reported that the new DirecTiVo would use the old, SD TiVo UI and not the new HD UI. Even that the hardware was based on the old HR22 DirecTV DVR. I have some hope that TiVo’s statements, and the continuing delays, mean they’ve taken steps to update the product specs to launch a truly competitive product when it comes to market. Who knows which of the old reports are still true given the time that has passed, of if the were even accurate to start with.
Of course, no one but the insiders knows the truth, and they’re not talking. But I think there is some pretty strong circumstantial evidence that TiVo isn’t the cause of the delay. Since the announcement in 2008 TiVo designed the TiVo Premiere and brought it to market. They integrated OnDemand support into the software, and launched the platform with MSOs RCN & Suddenlink. They announced their deal with Virgin Media and have very successfully launched with them in the UK – and I’ll note that’s also on non-TiVo-designed hardware, the box is from Cisco. They have similar deals with other MSOs, like ONO in Spain, using the same HW as the UK.
They’ve also designed the TiVo Premiere Elite and TiVo Preview, and those appear to be headed to market later this year. At least through MSOs, if not also via retail.
So TiVo has repeatedly shown that they can successfully execute new products in the time since the new DirecTiVo deal was announced. It doesn’t seem logical that they’d be able to execute all of these other projects, and yet would be unable to complete the new DirecTiVo. And, if the reports are true, the Technicolor HW isn’t a radical change from STBs they already produce. So I don’t think the problem is the HW. Or even the integration of the SW & HW.
My feeling, based on what I know and my experience in the tech industry, is that the delays are due to the project coordinator – DirecTV. The best case scenario is that it is a case of creeping featurism; they keep extending the product specifications and have to add more development time to meet the new goals. The worst case is that it is just management decisions and they’re delaying the product without using the time to continuously improve it. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
In any case, it isn’t what those waiting for the new DirecTiVo want to hear. At this point they just want a shipping box. Hopefully one that avoids the Duke Nuke’m Forever syndrome – waiting forever and getting a product that makes you wonder why you bothered waiting
For all of you waiting for the box, this is exactly why you want the FCC to push AllVid on the satellite companies. If they had to open up to third parties, as cable had to do with CableCARD, vendors like TiVo could produce compatible products on their own schedule, not the satellite company’s.