TiVo Beefs Up Search Functionality

Dave Zatz —  January 7, 2009 — 13 Comments

Later today, broadband-connected TiVo Series3 and TiVo HD subscribers will be treated to a revamped search experience. And, marking a first, TiVo is finally taking widescreen televisions seriously with a high-def interface utilizing that extra real estate. And, instead of carrying on with the questionable success of “Swivel Search” branding, this new offering is simply referred to as TiVo Search. Combined with a ‘beta’ designation and the visual similarity to those leaked prototype usability videos, I think what we’re really seeing is the foundation of a new (Java-based) TiVo look & feel. Some details from TiVo:

The new interface not only displays in high definition, it has a focus on finding high definition television content. TiVo search automatically recommends high definition television channels and episodes when users schedule a program to record. Additionally, users can now browse shows season by season and select any episode they want utilizing a robust episode guide. The newly tuned search engine also displays the most popular search results of the day automatically, even when typing only a single letter. Depending on availability users may record content from cable/antenna, download it from Amazon Video on Demand, or use WishList searches to record it the next time the content is broadcast.

All of which seems like the natural evolution of DVR search capabilities. But what really caught my eye, beyond the revamped UI, is seeing TiVo head back to their content discovery roots… by introducing a graphical and browseable video selection bar. It provides a richer, more interactive experience featuring video suggestions based on “community” popularity and subscriber’s personalized Thumbs Up/Down show ratings. Unfortunately, it’s probably inevitable that we’ll also see some sponsored placements.

TiVo’s soliciting feedback of their new Search widget and, based on a brief trial yesterday, my first comment is that the fonts are too small. In the size/quantity equation, I’d rather see less information that is more readable.

13 responses to TiVo Beefs Up Search Functionality

  1. Dave,
    did you see any other UI changes?

  2. Alex – This is a standalone application right now. HME based, not new software on the unit itself. So no changes to other areas of the box – yet.

    But I do REALLY like this new design approach and I hope they do overhaul the box in general with this look and feel. I think this brings it up to the kind of UI feel Digeo’s Moxi has, which is about the only highlight of the Moxi.

  3. I like that it’s widescreen and HD.

    Is it really java based?

  4. I tried it out tonight. It has a great interface, but the speed of this is horrible. It takes forever to do basic things in it. I hope if they implement this for real it will be a lot faster otherwise it is worthless.

  5. It looks good. Now, I love the TiVo interface, but this would be a welcome change in my house.
    It’s too bad that they have seemed to abandon S2 development. We use an old S2 that we have lifetime on for a Kidzone box, but what bugs me the most is that you can’t play a whole folder at once like I can on the S3/HD units in the house.

  6. Wow, what an amazing DVR search…This is something ive been wanting for a really long time, and it clearly blows away “Swivel Search”. The only Issues I see are

    1. you have to go to the slowest menu on tivo to access it.. I hate how slow the Music, Photos, and Showcases page loads. If they fixed that, or added another link to this search from where the swivel search is, I think it would get used way more.

    2. As Dave said, they need to increase the font size. I found it hard to read over my slingbox, whereas the old search was 100% readable over any tv/sling/phone.

    But wow, I love the season and episode break down. Something Ive requested for years, to save me from always having to run and IMDB a show to figure out the episode list.

  7. Wow that’s pretty cool. Finally a 16:9 HD interface. You know what, it’s using a Broadcom CPU similar to those in Motorola DCH set top boxes cable uses. Although if Tivo goes 16:9 HD interface in all of it’s screens with reasonable performance, it could be time to finally ditch the Comcast DVR.

    Regarding the font size… I would hope that it would be a setting. Someone with a larger 50″ and up TV may benefit from the smaller fonts for more on screen information. With the larger screen size it would still be readable. Although those on 32″ TV’s or those with a much further viewing distance may want to set the font size a tad bit larger.

    Looks to me like it’s a step in the right direction. I’m still debating… wait until I go grey and Comcast update their DVR interface, get a Moxi, or get a Tivo HD…

    Kind of hesitant loosing HD-VOD, but if someone blows me away it might be worth it.

  8. Oh one more thing to add… I noticed on Tivo’s demo site, the UI doesn’t look as smooth as the alpha we saw on engadget a few months ago.

    http://www.engadgethd.com/2008/09/29/potential-new-tivo-user-interface-shown-on-video/

    The early previews show a real slick smooth transitioning interface. Maybe the full blown performance UI will come in the form of a Tivo S4.

  9. Regarding speed, there are two issues here.

    One, the Java app is running on top or within the TiVo software. Should this become the actual platform, I expect it would be more responsive.

    The other speed issue might have to do with network polling, latency, etc. So we have to wait for a response from the network, and again, some of the interface elements are remote – but should this become the OS/platform, they’d be local. (In general, I get noticeable network performance improvements using Ethernet over TiVo’s wireless adapter.)

  10. Dave – is this search TiVo’s home grown stuff or, are they licensing it from someone? If it is homegrown, would it be available for licensing to other set top box makers?

  11. I believe they’re developing it in house. Though, I believe they use a third party for some development (think Rhapsody integration) and much of the Java/HME tech came via their acquisition of Strangeberry a few years ago. In regards to licensing, the TiVo experience is being ported to DirecTV, Comcast, and Cox… so it’s not out of the question, those these are partnerships.

  12. “I believe they use a third party for some development (think Rhapsody integration) ”

    The less I think about the TiVo-Rhapsody integration, the better… :D that’s the absolute worst piece of TiVo-related software ever created.

    This new search looks very promising. I like the 16:9 interface. I do hope they figure out a way to enter text other than the on-screen keyboard – cellphone-style character-entering would be much preferred.

  13. Love it. I find myself looking up random stuff.

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