It’s been some time since TiVo’s had some competition in the retail DVR appliance space. And Ceton looked poised to join the fray this year. The Ceton Q DVR was expected to arrive in 2012 containing a whopping six tuners, powered by a single CableCARD, two terabytes of storage, and a Blu-ray drive. Ceton has announced upcoming Holiday availability of the Echo Windows Media Center extender, with benefits, yet they’re withholding further details on the Q until September… suggesting to me that we’re no longer on track for release this year. In terms of divining pricing, with the tuner-less Ceton Echo launching at $179, I’d say we’re easily looking at a $400 product – with $600 being even more realistic for a small company. But, with Microsoft seemingly content to let Media Center atrophy and die, I’m not sure how much I’d be willing to invest on a solution based on that platform.
My wife and I just can’t seem to kick this gypsy lifestyle and are on the move once again. While we’d initially contemplated moving closer in to DC or returning to Maryland, we’ve changed tack and will be venturing deeper into the Northern Virginia suburbs next month. And, as with our former home, we’re fortunate to have Verizon’s FiOS TV & Internet service as an alternative to the cableco. At the house we’ve vacated, it was a no-brainer to dump Cox Communications given their inability to sufficiently support the two SDV Tuning Adapters required to power our TiVo DVRs and Verizon’s superior CableCARD support. But, this time around, we’re starting with a blank slate and the decision will be a bit trickier… as Verizon’s CableCARD experience has diminished and Comcast hasn’t implemented SDV.
On the Internet front, I assume either provider would be sufficient. Verizon may offer insane new speeds over fiber, but Comcast’s offerings aren’t too shabby. And, honestly, for most there’s a point of diminishing returns — how much broadband do we really need on a regular basis? Yet, there is one area where Verizon trumps Comcast’s Xfinity. At least for now. And that’s the lack of data caps.
Regarding television services, we’re not prepared to cut the cord and one of these two will be providing “cable” TV. Verizon’s DVRs beat Comcast… unless Xcalibur/X1 is being deployed to our region. Not that it really matters as I’ve upgraded to a TiVo Premiere Elite XL4 and intend to distribute one or two TiVo IP-STBs around the house for a whole-home DVR experience. So what will be the differentiators? What comes to mind at the moment is that Comcast continues to block HBO GO over Roku — for reasons unknown, that obviously have nothing to do with providing a great customer experience. On the other hand, Comcast does offer the nice Xfinity TV iPad app with tons of On Demand content. And, speaking of On Demand, it’s started rolling out to TiVo Premieres.
Comcast and Boxee representatives updated Commission staff on discussions between Comcast and Boxee on an initial and a long-term solution for consumers with retail IP-capable Clear QAM devices (“third-party devices”) to access encrypted basic tier channels in Comcast’s all-digital cable systems once the Commission allows for such encryption.
The initial solution involves the development as soon as possible of a high-definition digital transport adapter with an ethernet connector (“E-DTA”). This solution would enable a customer with a third-party device to access basic tier channels directly through an ethernet input on such third-party device or via the home network, and to change channels remotely in the E-DTA via a DLNA protocol.
The long-term solution, which would follow shortly after the initial solution, involves the creation of a licensing path for integrating DTA technology into third-party devices (“Integrated DTA”). Such a device could access encrypted basic tier channels without the need for a cable operator-supplied DTA or set-top box.
What’s most interesting about this proposal is the fact that it doesn’t involve CableCARDs — the existing solution for third party products to authenticate and access cable content. While Light Reading believes these access methods may foreshadow the death of AllVid, I see this more as the road to an industry-created AllVid solution – some secure, centralized way to distribute cable around the home… that manufactures like Boxee and TiVo could leverage. And without the ongoing hassle and confusion of CableCARD.
Verizon may find themselves dethroned as the top TiVo-friendly “cable” provider come August when they implement the Copy Once CableCARD flag — presumably at HBO’s request and in at least one market (Dallas Fort Worth). On channels and programs with this particular CCI Byte notation, TiVo owners will be permitted to DVR shows as they normally would. However, they’ll be unable to transfer those recordings to other TiVo units or offload them via TiVoToGo for mobile playback or archival purposes. TiVo owners with TiVo Premiere hardware will retain the option to stream recorded programming between units, but owners of older TiVo hardware and/or in a hybrid TiVo environment will find themselves out of luck. Fortunately, Verizon indicates this change will be specific to “certain premium channels” … which is more consumer friendly than Cox Communications or Time Warner Cable’s approach of locking everything down, other than the locals, in some regions. As with many such initiatives, this move inconveniences legit cable subscribers while doing nothing to limit piracy. And so it goes.
Now that the roll out of TiVo Xfinity On Demand is complete in the San Francisco Bay Area, Comcast and TiVo are pumping the hybrid initiative via billboard, bus, radio, and television advertising in what’s been described to me as a “joint effort.” In recent years, TiVo has shunned most forms of advertising beyond the web… so I find this to be a refreshing change in approach that hopefully bears fruit in terms of new retail subscribers. As to the product itself, Comcast’s formerly inaccessible On Demand offerings, both paid and included with one’s subscription, are now automatically available at no additional cost via TiVo Premiere DVRs. At least in this one (large) Comcast region. TiVo suggests you register here to be alerted when your Comcast neighborhood is upgraded. Of course, it’s also safe to assume we’ll continue to provide updates as they become available. Bonus advertising: One TiVo Community forum member also caught a TiVo Xfinity standee in a Bay Area Best Buy. Continue Reading…