TiVo: can it compete with Netflix, the Cloud, and irrelevance?

The post-PC era can also be called the post-TV era, even though TVs are still pretty cool when they are over 60 inches and LED and wall-mounted and attached to a Surround Sound speaker system. Whatever post-thingy era it is, TiVo and it’s overpriced hard drive boxes are an anachronism. 

Apparently, people who care about these things (ie, bloggers and journalists who have to fill the aether with constant noise) were very interested to learn that TiVo laid off 5 hardware engineers, leaving 2 in the company.

There were many reasons for much analysis and words being put on the Internet:

1. TiVo was getting out of the hardware business

2. No wonder the damn TiVo boxes are so friggin’ slow, expensive, and 90s when they didn’t have that many engineers to begin with

3. Everyone likes to see companies flailing because it is yet one more chance to write up Google/Facebook/Apple and reduce us all to  a vegetative state

TiVo said otherwise. TiVo was still going to outsource its hardware work and that it wasn’t abandoning the set-top box, but rather acknowledging that software and other devices were the future. 

More chatter, the Cloud is taking over everything. TiVo is going to the Cloud. Cloud, Cloud, Cloud.

At this point, TiVo’s brass probably thought, “Dear lord, we are working on a sinking ship and if that wasn’t bad enough, now everyone is going to second us for bailing on the chaps below the deck and trying to get jobs at Netflix.”

TiVo’s CEO, Steve Wymer, told Ars Technica:


It’s premature to say whether a device like the NDVR wouldn’t see a direct-to-consumer push, and it should be noted that we do already work in partnership with ODMs to provide the TiVo experience on co-branded products. Rogers, in Canada, distributes a co-branded TiVo product that is designed and manufactured by Pace, a set-top box company.

These components that are being described as future strategies for TiVo are current strategies for TiVo. We work with cable companies to provide users with the best TiVo experience, either through hardware sold direct-to-consumers, or hardware distributed by the cable companies.

Now, there is a big opportunity in a cloud-based solution that still involves TiVo hardware but that doesn’t involve the large, multi-tuner TiVo hardware everyone’s familiar with. It’s no less a TiVo experience, but contained in more modest hardware, with the brunt of the work happening in the cloud.


And then proceeded to drone on about TiVo functionality moving to the Cloud which is where everyone is going these days because, Cloud, Cloud, Cloud.

The truth of the matter is that TiVo doesn’t produce anything of much value in terms of software anymore. Sure, it can license its stuff, both hardware and software, to the cable guys who still have set-top boxes. 

TiVo can also transition its users to a Cloud based service. But, why are we, the users of TiVo, me being one of them, going to pay that subscription fee for a service that is irrelevant. 

Relevance was when TiVo let me determine when I watched broadcast programming.

Irrelevance is when you charge me to let me watch stuff from TV on my devices whenever I want, provided I have dictated it so, when most all of my needs are being met by On Demand services, streaming subscription programs, and the plethora of distribution options offered by the broadcasters and programmers themselves.

If you are going to continue to pay for TiVo then, you are truly holding back the tide and that’s okay because, everyone knows that it is really easy to hold back the tide.

TiVo, go ahead and ditch your hardware business. Or, don’t. It doesn’t matter. Your service doesn’t really make much sense these days.