Digeo Takes on TiVo with Moxi

Dave Zatz —  January 14, 2009 — 22 Comments

Although units began shipping in mid-December (with little fanfare), Digeo CEO Greg Gudorf officially unveiled their long delayed and re-imagined retail Moxi HD DVR ($800) last week at CES. I’ve previously been critical of Digeo’s go-to-market and press/blogger outreach strategies, but I’ve never had a problem with their tech – in fact, the Moxi OS was ahead of it’s time. Making these delays all the more frustrating. So, it’s good to finally see a solid offering available on store shelves. Err, available solely at Amazon.com. In fact, I bet DVR pioneer TiVo is happy to see a bit of competition. Hopefully raising awareness amongst consumers that they’re not limited to cable-co provided set-top boxes. Which is the big challenge facing these guys… After 9 years on the market, while DVR household penetration has skyrocketed, TiVo has fewer than 2 million stand-alone subscribers. In fact, Gudorf pretty much began his talk by proclaiming the Moxi HD DVR is “not a mass market product” – rather, it’s a “premium” offering targeted at 12-15 million digital cable customers.

The Moxi experience is largely unchanged from the demos I’ve attended and the pre-release unit I had in my home back in 2007. The rich, graphical UI is now completely HD, and retains the dual axis navigation. Which in many ways is efficient, but cluttered in others. I still dig the Super Ticker which scrolls Internet-acquired info (weather, scores, etc) along the bottom of your screen like CNN or ESPN. Moxi offers a ton of programming filters, perhaps too many, and provides real-time web-based scheduling and conflict management. A variety of Internet content is accessible from the box, including info/news, Flickr, and Finetune (music). Additionally, you can access your personal MP3s or JPEG images from a Windows PC – with true DLNA support slated for later this year. However, at least initially, Moxi doesn’t have a video on demand partner like an Amazon, CinemaNow, or Netflix. But it’s probably safe to assume movie downloads are on the road map. Moxi provides some advanced functionality not seen on TiVo, such as being able to manually map clear QAM channels. But, on the other hand, the ability to offload video (à la TiVoToGo) is not present.

Moxi HD DVR hardware is both much sleeker and more subtle than the product(s) Digeo blew up last January, and should blend nicely into any entertainment center. And if that glowing Moxi logo upsets you, it can be disabled in the settings. The dual tuning DVR, powered by one multistream CableCARD, ships with 500GB of storage (~75 hours of HD). Yet can be expanded, like the TiVo Series3/HD platform, using an eSATA drive. Digeo also made a point of talking up their powerful Broadcom chipset. A design decision that Ben Drawbaugh and I question is the lack of an over-the-air (OTA) ATSC tuner. I do understand Digeo’s strategy/messaging of focusing on digital cable subscribers but, at the same time, that additional hardware cost would be relatively small and give them another marketing bullet point. (Ben and I may be unique in that we’ve been known to drop cable television services the months when college football is out of season.) While Digeo’s hardware is capable of supporting the now-rolling SDV tuning adapters, a software update is required to access all switched programming… and is expected later this year. Also announced in Vegas, is a new MoxiMate DVR extender. This compact fanless, driveless device will be used to receive DVR content on other televisions in the home. Although, I didn’t catch if they’re going the MoCA route over coax or will be utilizing the LAN for transport. It’s expected later this year, and pricing details were not disclosed.

One of the primary ways Digeo hopes to differentiate themselves from TiVo and from the cable industry is by providing a fee-less DVR. Stating they don’t intend to “dog people” with recurring monthly costs. While it’s debatable which route may be more economical (Digeo thinks theirs is), it clearly results in a much higher initial investment. Which will be a challenge, given Digeo/Moxi’s largely unfamiliar brand, without brick & mortar retail outlets (yet?), and being privately funded.

In addition to Digeo’s Moxi cable products and the new retail DVR, Digeo has also licensed the Moxi experience to Monster. Who’ve attempted to expand beyond pricey cables and break into home media and automation for a couple of years now. Two Monster iTV PowerCenter configurations, “Powered by Moxi,” are expected to ship this summer, starting at $900.

All that’s left is spending some quality hands on time with the new Moxi HD DVR. And I’m hopeful of receiving a review loaner at some point.

Click to enlarge:

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22 responses to Digeo Takes on TiVo with Moxi

  1. The lack of an OTA would probably be a deal killer for me. Even though I’m subscribing to digital cable, I like feeling like I’m not wedded to them. Having the option to go over the air can save you a lot more in monthly fees then whatever TiVo charges. For this to be a really compelling product, I’d like to see them add support for high def attenna’s, some kind of built in Sling capability, so that you could stream your DVR programs through the net, and support for over the net video sources. They don’t need Netflix specifically, but it’d be nice if they at least supported DivX or MKV so that consumers can bring internet content to the TV.

  2. The DLNA support will bring video streaming, but they didn’t elaborate on codecs or containers.

  3. I won’t hold my breath for broad video support. DLNA is a joke, all Moxi needs to do is to support Mpeg 2 in order to qualify. How many Mpeg 2 files are actually sitting on end user computers? The inability for DLNA to keep their requirements up to date is probably a big reason why many of their members are now supporting the DECE certification scheme instead. I’m not sure what kind of muscle cable labs has in all of this, but Moxi will need to go above and beyond the minimum if they want to stay competitive.

  4. I’m curious to find out how well it works, but if people balk at paying a few hundred for a TiVo, I wouldn’t want to be marketing/sales person whose job is to convince people to pay $800 for a DVR.

    MoxiMate is an interesting concept though, but the devil is in the details of implementation.

  5. Michael Portuesi January 14, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    The Moxi UI looks very fresh and modern, as compared to the now-ancient TiVo user interface. How does Moxi compare in terms of usability, scheduling capability, etc.?

  6. Do any of these critters have component video in? It kills me that TiVo doesn’t do this.

    I’m trying to roll my own with the Hauppauge and Elgato, but it is slow going and inelegant.

  7. Michael, I recall the scheduling being fine and the interface sprightly, but the dual axis layout (think PS3 crossbar) isn’t always ideal and may feel different. Hopefully, someone will live with this a bit and report back.

    johnnyO, I’d like to see a mainstream DVR record HD over component and relay commands via IR. But no one’s doing it, unless you roll your own. And as you’ve discovered, it’s less than ideal. I know a few folks using SageTV (on PC) to do this with a Black Magic card or Hauppauge HD PVR.

  8. I agree not having OTA is a problem. I too, like the ability to dump the cableco whenever I want.

    Besides some of these basic points that the others posts have said, plus a reduction in price from the $800 range to the sub-$500 range, please, just give me a clean interface where I no longer have to see “Build your own Landrover” (a not-so-subtle dig at TiVo’s multiple ad-laced interface).

  9. “One of the primary ways Digeo hopes to differentiate themselves from TiVo and from the cable industry is by providing a fee-less DVR.”

    Didn’t TiVo resurrect lifetime subscriptions? A TiVo box + lifetime subscription doesn’t sound like it’s that much different from the Moxi price-wise, and at least TiVo gives people a choice.

  10. Yep, TiVo Lifetime currently runs $400. Although that service package has come and gone before, and isn’t mentioned at say Best Buy. A TiVo HD (with less storage) for MSRP of $300 plus that $400 comes in less than the $800 Moxi. The 1TB TiVo HD XL would cost more.

  11. I think the Moxi UI and features look awesome. I’m currently bound to I-Guide on a Motorola DVR with Comcast, and frankly everything out there looks so much better. If only these third party DVR’s were able to tune into Comcast’s video on demand library through the SDV tuner, I could finally ditch the ancient 1990′s featureless I-Guide on a Motorola DCH-3416.

    What’s also really nice about the Moxi is that you can add storage to the unit and expand recording space. 160GB was fine when there was about 8 HD channels in the lineup, but now that were seeing 36 (and with more to come), HD size is becoming much more important than ever before.

    So if they could somehow work a deal with not just Comcast, but with Time Warner, Charter, Cox, Brighthouse, Blue Ridge, etc… to get VOD to work, then not only does the cable company save money by not purchasing an expensive DVR for you, but they also benefit from occasional VOD purchases and SVOD revenue.

  12. Dave,

    Will SDV be supported with this new Moxi. I think it’s capable of the tuning resolver. A lot of cable companies like our TWC division uses SDV on a bunch of channels especially HD channels.

  13. My understanding is that this is is ALL digital, no analog support. So if you have ‘digital cable’ that is actually hybrid (analog 1-99, digital 100+) it won’t work for you without an add-on analog tuning dongle.

  14. rv65, it doesn’t current support the external SDV tuning resolver. A software update is expected later this year to enable them.

  15. Two years ago the Moxi DVR would have been killer. Now, at $800, it’s not. Don’t know why Digeo’s in the hardware business. Should have done a better job of licensing out the Moxi software. Too late in the hardware game and not enough chops (from a business perspective) to compete. (Yes, I am biased as a contractor for Motorola, but still- who is going to buy this for $800??)

  16. What you’re saying is that the cable industry has got Moto and Cisco locked up for DVR hardware and anyone trying to compete in retail will fail. ;) Unfortunately, it’s probably true. Not quite a monopoly, but it’s way too difficult to enter this space. And the “open” CableCARD initiative became an even greater cluster, once SDV appeared.

    I did read the new Moxi cable stuff is now being deployed on Charter. It’s both hardware and software, unlike the former SD stuff running on Moto hardware. Without a Paul Allen backed Charter, I wonder where Digeo would be.

  17. Charter is currently deploying the new MOXI’s in the St. Louis area. I’ve been a MOXI user for three+ years now and I will never go to something else. Once you’ve had one you’ll never be able to use a standard DVR UI again.

  18. Brian, if you get the Moxi DVR via Charter, is the UI peppered with ads?

  19. When I first saw the Moxi UI on a cable box in back in, what 2005? I thought it was pretty cool.

    But sorry, its 2009. Anybody who wants something other than the cable company DVR (and there’s not that many of us) has already bought a Tivo. And if they didn’t, that $800 Moxi isn’t going to entice them.

    I’ve got multiple Tivos, use the multi-room features, the Amazon On Demand, the Tivo Desktop conversions for my iPod, etc. I’m not going anywhere.

    Sure I’d love to have a central vault with just little boxes in the other rooms, and the monthly fee isn’t something I relish. And the Tivo interface is archaic. But I’m locked in for quite some time to come, and with SDV coming on board, and Tru2Way at some point, I won’t be trusting Digeo with my money any time soon…

  20. Yeah, I’ve been waiting a long, long time for the second coming of Moxi, but $800 is just way too steep for me to dump TiVo. If it were $499 or so, then maybe, MAYBE…especially if it was at $500 and included a Moxi Mate. But $800 is just way too steep.

    Less of a concern than OTA tuning is the fact that there’s only one M-Card slot. My previous experience with TWC was that no one. neither installers nor customer service, knew the difference between the two, so I was stuck with two s-cards for the duration of my TiVo usage with them.

  21. I’ve got the older Moxi w/DVD and a MoxiMate with Charter in the St. Louis area. Had it for over 3 years now, and really like it. No ads or anything here, and it supports Charter’s VOD. The one thing I wish it could do that it doesn’t is something like Tivo’s Wishlist, where it could record things that aren’t yet on the schedule but that match some criteria. Other than that, no complaints at all.

  22. Lack of OTA recording is a deal killer for me. Everything else sounds good, despite reading critiques about the UI in some other reviews. I don’t have cable or satellite and no intention to do so. I used to be a satellite subscriber, but due to bad customer service and the economy, we had to let it go. Doubt I’ll ever return.

    Basically I want OTA recording and no monthly fees.

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