The recent news announcement that TiVo and Yahoo are joining forces (see Yahoo, TiVo bring web and TV closer) seemed like the product of a time warp, from perhaps a decade ago when "convergence" was the rage. The tease here is obvious: Internet TV. Yahoo is the gateway to the wide-open Internet. TiVo gives you control over what you watch on TV. That's why the failure to deliver the obvious -- what comes to mind to any thoughtful person when they consider the marriage of TV and Internet -- makes their announcement all the more lame.
The announced new features let you program TiVo remotely from the Internet -- this is something their rival RePlay began offering over three years ago (before they went bankrupt and got sold to Denon and Marantz) -- and TiVo has already offered this feature from its own web site, without Yahoo, too. Now you can view Yahoo photos on your TV -- something you could have done with a Media Center PC years ago too.
While it's nice to see TiVo catching up with its competitors, it would be even nicer to see something new. Like er... the obvious: Internet-delivered TV.
There's an explosion in Internet Protocol Television -- IPTV -- technology taking place worldwide. We even have a news report this week predicting an eight-fold increase by 2009.
Against this backdrop, it's curious that TiVo hasn't moved in this direction -- leaving the space, for the time being at least, to fledgling players like Akimbo who lack the installed base needed to make it work.
TiVo has always courted the favor of the big TV networks, by limiting the commercial-skip function (unlike RePlay, in their heyday), and by selling showcases and sneak peeks of network promos as a new form of advertising.
But even more than broadcast networks, TiVo has had to stay on the good side of the cable-TV industry. TiVo's whole business strategy these days is to move TiVo software into the set top boxes of big cable-TV companies like Comcast. Ditto for satellite-TV (where their existing deal with DirecTV is being challenged by cheaper generic DVR technology.)
IPTV is more than just technology. It is a very real threat to the gatekeepers of television. Neither the cable-TV industry, nor the original broadcast networks want to see IPTV catch on its purest form, that is, TV delivered via Internet, from anyone to anyone.
TiVo and Yahoo, while drumming up publicity by teasing us with the tantalizing things to come, have managed to keep the gates in place for a while longer -- despite the obvious synergy of these two new media giants. It doesn't take long for the upstart challengers to become entrenched.
Perhaps someday, after TiVo feels they have milked the established media players dry, they will get around to offering something new and different.
What do you think of the TiVo and Yahoo alliance? Share your thoughts, and see what others think, in our Video/Imaging DesignLine Forums.
Cliff Roth is Video/Imaging DesignLine Site Editor.