I’ve owned a TiVo for over five years now, and without question it has completely changed the way I watch television. I won’t elaborate on how revolutionary the TiVo has been because Kassia has already done that, and I don’t want to come across as one of those TiVo zealots. No, I’m not here to tell you how great the TiVo is. Instead, I want to note just how disappointed I am by the current state of DVR technology. It seems to me that the rate of DVR innovation has begun stagnating.
After five years of using the same TiVo box I should be itching to buy a new machine, but I’m not. I’m still happily using an upgraded version of my first generation DirectTiVo. While the new features available in Series 2 are nice, I prefer the freedom to tinker that the Series 1 allows. I’ve upgraded the hard drive twice, installed an ethernet adapter, setup a web-based interface, and I’ve hooked it all up to a wireless bridge so the machine can make its nightly calls via the Internet instead of over a dial-up connection (a move that saved me many headaches during my recent VoIP conversion). Most importantly I’ve disabled the machine from accepting any further operating system updates – I’m not a fan of unexpected modifications to my personal technology.
While the Series 2 TiVo’s offer a slight improvement over the original models by allowing you to share recorded programs among multiple devices, view photos from your PC, and listen to music located on your home network, those features are hardly compelling enough to cause me to buy a new system. I’m already streaming digital music to my Audiotron and I’ve only got a single TV set, so the ability to share video between multiple TiVo boxes isn’t much of an improvement. Besides, the S2 boxes are more difficult to upgrade, and I’m concerned about the persistent rumors that TiVo is on the verge of giving content providers the ability to expire recorded programs before I’ve had a chance to watch them. I have this sneaking suspicion that Bud Selig is just waiting for his chance to delete that A’s/Reds game I’ve been saving since 2004.
While I realize that my DVR is ancient by most standards, I have yet to see a substantial improvement over my current system that would cause me to consider upgrading.
So what am I waiting for? Here’s a list of a few of the features I’d like to see in my next DVR:
- RSS integration, including support for binary enclosures. RSS support is probably the single most important feature a DVR could offer. This would effectively bring the world of online video to your television by allowing you to subscribe to video blogs, podcasts, YouTube and Google Video feeds, etc. You think old media is scared now? Just wait until everyone has the ability to create their own video network.
- A smart remote that can share data with the DVR. The remote should display meta data related to whatever is playing at the time and could be used to provide an enhanced level of usability when searching through large media collections. A device like the Sonos remote would be perfect.
- Intelligent integration with my digital music collection. I want more than just the ability to play music from my local network. I want a richer user experience that will allow me to easily find songs and albums buried in a very large music collection. Also, I should be able to control music playback with various popular music managers like iTunes and WinAMP.
- iTunes video support. Right now the biggest barrier to iTunes video success is the fact that there’s no way to easily view iTunes video on your television. If I could watch iTunes videos on my DVR I wouldn’t need to burn the programs to a DVD. The problem, of course, is that Apple won’t license its FairPlay DRM technology to third parties. On the other hand, Apple could easily buy TiVo and make it all “just work” ™.
- Social bookmarks. I’d like the ability to bookmark media while I’m online and view it later on my DVR. I’d also like the ability to share these bookmarks with my friends and family, and vice versa. Think del.icio.us for TV. TiVo’s recommendation system is fine (despite the “Sergeant Pepper” incident), but I bet people that I know and respect would make even better recommendations.
In looking over my wish list I realize that the ultimate DVR is beginning to look more like the ultimate convergence device. I want a machine that will allow me to seamlessly organize and consume all of the various types of media that have become a part of my everyday life. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.