Rovi holds over 4,000 patents, including some of the most contentious patents in consumer electronics history.
Macrovision changed its name over the summer, to Rovi. Having acquired the infamous Gemstar patents and the TV Guide program guide service, but with a name that consumers associated with just one annoying technology -- copy protection -- it was time for a change.
Simultaneous with the name change the company launched a new media guide that combines TV listings with Internet and home video content. While others have been offering such "convergence guides" for years, two things make Rovi's entry significant: First, it's being offered by the biggest program guide company. And second, it reflects the need for a "post TV Guide" name. As strong as the TV Guide brand has been for more than half a century, its glory days are in the past. As TV watching has moved from traditional screens to PCs and mobile devices, and as the content being viewed shifts to user-generated videos, short clips, and movies and premium content on demand, the term "TV" is outdated, and fails to embrace the wider universe of video choices.
I have no idea what went into coming up with this new name, but surely it's intended to conjure images of "roving" or a "rover" who is exploring. "With our leading guide solutions and extensive entertainment metadata, we believe we are now positioned as a key enabler for digital entertainment," said Rovi president and CEO Fred Amoroso in the name change announcement.
Rovi holds over 4,000 patents, including some of the most contentious patents in consumer electronics history -- the Gemstar patents that are widely believed to cover the display of even the most basic grid-style program guide. However, as reported here previously, the company is much more willing to license these patents to third-party program guide developers working on TV, DVR, set top box, and other EPG/IPGs than Gemstar was. Now, Rovi even has a page on their new web site devoted to the subject:
Rovi Guide Patent Licensing
Rovi's site also features an area called "The 'Everything Guide' Vision," again reflecting their mission to be a consumer friendly all-inclusive interface. But at the end of the day, there's an irony and contradiction here.
Despite shedding the Macrovision moniker, a big chunk of the re-branded company is still devoted to copy protection. Newer variants include ACP, RipGuard and BD+, developed for DVD, Blu-ray, PPV and VOD delivery. Ultimately, from the consumer's perspective, these technologies can frustrate and prevent whole-home enjoyment of purchased media, as the recently adjudicated Kaleidascape case demonstrates.
Ultimately, Rovi may be the company that tells a consumer perusing a program guide in the living room that there's a wonderful DVD in the PC in the attic, but to watch it she'll have to climb two flights of stairs to go get it, because copy protection prevents transmission through the home network.