TiVo unveils next-generation box, promises to reinvent television watching (again)


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TiVo, the company that claims to have reinvented the way people watch television, is now reinventing itself.

A decade after the company shipped its first digital video recorder, causing panic among TV executives who feared what the 30-second fast-forward button would do to their ad sales, TiVo is launching a new box and a revamped look and feel (this time, triggering far less hand-wringing from broadcasters).


First, the boxes themselves will feature beefier hard-drives -- the better to store all that high-definition video. Its standard ‘S’ device will have 320 gigabytes of storage, or about 45 hours of high-quality video, and retail for $299. And the premium ‘XL’ version will sport a 1-terabyte drive, enough for 150 hours of HD video, and cost $499. Both are slated to be out in early April.

But the second and more interesting change is a complete redesign of what viewers see on the screen from their TiVos. The Alviso, Calif., company characterized the new design as its first new software platform in 10 years.

In fact, it’s a culmination of how TiVo has worked to reinvent itself over the last three years -- by folding in every channel of content imaginable, including YouTube, Amazon Video on Demand and Netflix Instant Watch. Throw in 42,000 hours of cable and broadcast content piping into every home every day, and you have a content tsunami.

In the past, TiVo’s solution was to just record shows similar to what a user watched before. Users could give the shows a thumbs up or down and TiVo would adjust what it automatically recorded. Fast-forward a decade, and the feature loses its edge because of the influx of on-demand options and Internet video. (For one thing, most Internet video needs to be actively clicked on, not prerecorded in TiVo fashion.)

‘There is so much content coming to the TV from broadcast, cable and broadband that we needed a new way for consumers to make sense of it all,’ said TiVo Chief Executive Tom Rogers.

TiVo’s answer: Give viewers more options and recommendations. The new TiVo, for example, lets users browse content related to a specific actor or director. It will automatically build recommendations based on themes, such as the Olympics or the Oscars. And it will pull video from the Internet into the mix, not just televised shows. Check out a sample screen for the new TiVo interface to the left.

‘We’re preparing for a world of infinite choice,’ said James Denney, vice president of TiVo. ‘When choice is overwhelming, we want to help you find the things you like. Part of it is making TV more fun, and part of it is helping you to discover new things to watch.’

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.