I mentioned my conversation last Friday with TiVo’s Public Relations Manager, Jessica Loebig, and VP & GM of Product Marketing, Jim Denney, in my posts on the transcoding box and the IP STB, but we discussed more than those two products. We also discussed plans for the next software update, future product plans, the loss of Blockbuster, and more. I can’t share everything we discussed – yet – but I can share some of it.
Starting with the next software update, 21.x, which is expected in the spring (late-April or early-May), there are a few things TiVo is willing to confirm. (I’ve touched on this release before.) Aside from general polish, more screens being moved into the HD UI, bug fixes – aka the usual – the biggest news is probably the long awaited update to two streaming clients: Netflix and YouTube.
The TiVo Netflix app is getting a complete overhaul – or, rather, a replacement. The new app is actually written by Netflix and integrated by TiVo, using TiVo’s Adobe Air-based SDK. It will provide a completely modern Netflix experience, on par with other devices. TiVo says it will be similar to the Netflix client found on the Insignia Connected TV with TiVo Design, but not exactly the same.
YouTube is also getting a new client, which will be radically different. The new client will implement the YouTube ‘lean back’ style interface, and is probably most similar to the version found on Google TV. YouTube created the ‘lean back’ UI especially for home entertainment implementations, where you ‘lean back’ as opposed to ‘leaning forward’ over your computer keyboard, so this should be a nice improvement.
I did ask about an update for the Amazon app, but it will not be part of the next update. TiVo recognizes there is demand for support of the free Amazon Prime streaming in Amazon Instant Video, but to implement it they need to work with Amazon. Currently they’re in “active discussions” with Amazon about the implementation, but they can’t yet say when it might happen. But know that it is on their radar. They did want to stress that the TiVo app does have access to the complete Amazon Instant Video library via downloads, it is only the streaming that is currently missing.
I also asked about Spotify support for the US. TiVo queried US customers about interest in Spotify last July, and the Virgin Media TiVo units in the UK got Spotify in November, but there is still no sign of it in the US. TiVo doesn’t have an official comment on this at this time, aside from acknowledging the interest. Personally I think it is on the road map but they’re not ready to talk about it yet.
Something else that is coming in the next release is parental controls in the HD UI. Until now customers who wanted to enable parental controls needed to switch to the SD UI, so this is likely a welcome change for parents. This did, unsurprisingly, spark a discussion on TiVo KidZone and the future thereof. At this time there are no plans to bring TiVo KidZone to the HD UI. There are ongoing discussions within TiVo about the future of KidZone in general, and what form it might take, if it remains at all.
I got the impression that KidZone was never a high demand item and the justification for devoting the engineering resources needed to bring it to the HD UI is difficult to make. We may see fancier parental controls instead of a special KidZone implementation. Or perhaps it is something that might be addressed via user-based folders (which we’ve seen teased in screen grabs in the past), by tying access to folders to the parental controls and only allowing the kids access to their own folder. But that’s just speculation on my part.
Looking further out I tried to get some info on the new SDK, but they’re not ready to discuss that just yet. They did confirm that it is Adobe Air with ActionScript 3.0 (at least for the initial release, it seems like other environments may be added in the future), and they are very serious about supporting developers. They’ve hired someone for a new position tied to the SDK, so it will have dedicated attention. I’m hoping it fares better than the old public HME SDK. This time around I think TiVo has more appreciation for the importance of third party apps.
We also discussed Jason Wong’s interview at last September’s IBC show. I’ve already covered the transcoder box and IP STB in previous posts. The other big item, to me at least, that Jason mentioned was DLNA support:“Yes, using DLNA and DLNA approved DRM like DTCP, but yes.” This sparked an interesting discussion. First of all, TiVo clarified that Jason’s comments were within the context of the European audience of the IBC show. European units support DTCP but not the entire DLNA standard.
The discussion was over whether it makes sense for TiVo to support DLNA on the US units. My stance is that yes, it does – especially as a DLNA client. While it would be nice to have TiVo as a DLNA server, I actually don’t see it being as useful for most users. There aren’t currently a lot of devices that would act as a DLNA client for a DTCP-IP protected stream. Down the road a bit I think this will be more useful, as more cable MSOs implement this tech, thereby driving more consumer devices (like smart TVs) to implement the client side.
But going back to my original point, I think it would be useful for TiVo to implement DLNA client capabilities. Right now getting media onto a TiVo from local sources is a bit of a pain in the ass. You have to install TiVo Desktop, or one of the third party tools like kmttg, Streambaby, or pyTiVo, just to get your music, photos, and/or video onto the TiVo for display. But many devices already have built in DLNA server support and it would be plug-and-play if TiVo would only connect to these existing servers.
To me a huge issue is that so many modern smartphones have built in DLNA support. Any of the content you have on your DLNA-enabled smartphone could be streamed wirelessly over the local network to a DLNA-enabled TiVo. No need for HDMI or MHL cables, or docks, etc. Just connect to the local LAN and away you go. This is possible with most connected TVs, but that’s still a small market. TiVo could be the gateway for this content for many consumers; I think that would be very useful. Not to mention making it easier to display content from your PC, NAS, etc.
I think we had a good discussion about DLNA support and I’m hopeful TiVo will give some serious thought toward implementing it, at least as a client to start. But they are interested in gauging the demand from the market in general, so how about it? Is DLNA support, client and/or server, something you’d like to see TiVo add? And why?