A network for TiVo?

TiVo’s announcement today, in case anyone missed the headlines (e.g., Yahoo), lays out a nice role for TiVo: enabling you to view your recorded programs on an iPod or Sony Playstation Portable. This is a big leap forward, if they can pull it off, and they’re hinting it should be ready the first quarter of 2006. As with any network innovation, there should be value in this move for more than just TiVo, and at first glance there would be. I’ve been holding off on a Sony PSP because of its relatively closed content network (it only takes Sony UMDs or Memory sticks), but a seamless connection to TiVo would break open that network. Emphasis on seamless, which may not be the case. The WSJ reports that it may take up to 2 hrs to transfer a recorded show from TiVo to your PC and then to an iPod (converting it in the meantime between formats…):

Getting TiVo to work with an iPod isn’t as simple as downloading music and videos to Apple’s device from iTunes. First, a user’s TiVo records a show onto the machine’s hard drive. Then, the program is transferred over a home network to a PC, where it is translated into a video format compatible with the iPod. Next, the video must be transferred to the iPod from the PC. The whole process of getting an hour-long show onto an iPod could take more than two hours from the time a TiVo device finishes recording it.

Worse, it sounds like users will have to buy TiVo software for the PC to accept and convert the programming.

We’ll learn a few good lessons here about network innovations–especially the difference between imagining a networked world and actually pulling it off. Making TiVo connect with the iPod and Sony PSP is more than just kluging together technical possibilities and then making announcements from the Corporate PR office. The real test is whether the engineers and marketing folks can work together (and across firms) to build a seamlessness experience for everyone involved.

But TiVo better hurry, because the other news today is AT&T’s (ne SBC) commitment to a digital future and the delivery of TV, phone, net, etc… to homes. AT&T is talking about 1000 channels in your home in 18 months. This is TiVo’s real chance to hit it big, as AT&T/SBC may find them a better partner than the Cable/Satellite providers (and their DVR knock-offs) that AT&T sees as direct competitors. A 100o channels plus the ‘net is going to need a good SW interface and connection to the rest of our digital lives. Meanwhile, Cisco’s acquisition of set-top box manufacturer Scientific-Atlanta, Inc. could put Cisco’s networking strengths inside any number of DVRs, only highlighting TiVo’s isolation.