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Interview with SONICblue's CEO 135

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the don't-envy-this-guy dept.
An anonymous reader writes "itvt.com has an interview with the current CEO of SONICblue Greg Ballard where he fields questions on subjects including: the future of the DVR, the current litigation with Hollywood and how he sees ReplayTV PVR stacking up against Tivo this upcoming holiday season."
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Interview with SONICblue's CEO

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  • by JonTurner (178845) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @10:57AM (#4453359) Journal
    "...against Tivo this upcoming holiday season."
    I don't understand. Microsoft, uh, I mean Slate, told me that TiVO was dead.
  • Replay vs. TiVo? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FortKnox (169099) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:00AM (#4453377) Homepage Journal
    how he sees ReplayTV PVR stacking up against Tivo this upcoming holiday season

    The only way ReplayTV can get a heads up over TiVo is to sell the software to digital cable companies to use it in their cable boxes.
    TiVo has a bigger following, and a partnership with DirecTV. It just has a foothold over all other DVRs.
    • by crow (16139) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:09AM (#4453434) Homepage Journal
      TiVo has the advantage of having better name recognition. Most of the numerical advantage TiVo has is due to their integration with satellite receivers. If you only look at the stand-alone units, TiVo and ReplayTV are much closer.

      The real issue is advertising. The one message they've gotten out to consumers is "pause live TV." That's nice, but not something you pay hundreds of dollars for. Automatically skipping commercials is probably a better message, and one that TiVo won't have.
      • Re:Replay vs. TiVo? (Score:3, Informative)

        by troc (3606)
        TiVo can add that feature to their software whenever they want to - it's actually quite a common hack amongst TiVo hackers.

        So unless ReplayTV have a patent on one button ad. skipping......... *smirk*

        Troc
        • Re:Replay vs. TiVo? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Pii (1955)
          It's hardly a hack, which implies (in the Tivo community) the addition or modification of software on the system.

          Tivo 30 Second Skip

          • Press Select
          • Press Play (Not the Yellow Play/Pause button)
          • Press Select
          • Press "3" and then "0"
          • Press Select
          Three Tivo tones indicates that the feature has been enabled.
    • Re:Replay vs. TiVo? (Score:3, Informative)

      by dubiousmike (558126)
      At a certain point, both PVRs have emulated each other pretty closely. I think the parent positing is a bit of a Troll.

      Tivo has a heads up over Replay because it had more marketing dollars (by initially charging their customers a monthly or one time fee). Tivo is also owned by Phillips.

      Tivo willfully shares your Tivo data with others. [com.com]

      Tivo has violated their privacy agreement with you a number of times. They changed their privacy policy to allow them to share your data without notifying their customers. The link they provided in their manual still made you click through on about 3 or 4 links before actually getting to the policy. I know of many Tivo owners who were concerned about their privacy were in an absolute uproar about this.

      Replay TV refused to share your private information and were almost forced to do so. They paid lawyers to keep my information to themselves [com.com].

      Though Replay now charges a monthly fee like Tivo on NEW units, I have a unit that did not have this charge. I paid $300 for a 20 hour Replay TV and have never spent a dime since.

      Replay TV has allowed for me to access my Replay TV from anywhere with an internet connection [myreplaytv.com]. I have heard that Tivo has also adopted this. Not sure though.

      Replay TV gave me the 30 second skip [techtv.com] so that I can easily bypass commercials. I believe Tivo has also snagged this feature as well?

      One thing that Tivo has over Replay is that it was the first to let you can hack it to add larger drives. (1 [tivofaq.com], 2 [sonnik.com], 3 [9thtee.com])
      ReplayTV does now too. (1 [sourceforge.net], 2 [reidpix.com]) Tivo has historically been easier to do so, but I'm not sure about these days.

      Overall, features on both are very similar, though the methodology to record shows is a little different. Replay gives you more pause time as it isn't just recording things it THINKS you MIGHT like. Replay makes you be specific about what you want to record, though they have theme recording channels. Tivo is programed to make certain assumptions about what you want it to record in addition to what you specifically specify.

      I know folks who own one or the other. Regardless of brand, they are both extremely happy with their new options for watching TV. For those of you who say, I barely watch TV, its likely because you think there's too much crap on. There is, but with one of these units, you will only be watching exactly what you want, without commercials. Iron Chef, Battlebots, Simpsons (I have archived almost 2/3s of all episodes), Southpark, West Wing, 24, shows for your kids/infants (ON DEMAND!!!) and both can wait for shows that aren't even in the programming guide yet.

      Though Tivo is on better financial ground [msn.com] right now, Replay TV isn't and hasn't historically been as shady about your privacy [siliconvalley.com].

      Bottom, line, do the math and find yourself the best deal. Even if one or both went out of business, we'd make a hack to grab the programing information anyway.

      • Re:Replay vs. TiVo? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Lightn (6014)

        Ok, there is a good amount of misinformation and ignorance in this post, I feel the need to respond.

        Tivo is also owned by Phillips.
        I'm pretty sure that is not the case. A few companies had large stakes in Tivo, but no one owns them.

        Tivo willfully shares your Tivo data with others. [com.com]
        That is a pretty small story you linked to. And if you had read the full story you would know that customers have to specifically agree to be part of the Neilson program.

        Tivo has violated their privacy agreement with you a number of times. They changed their privacy policy to allow them to share your data without notifying their customers. The link they provided in their manual still made you click through on about 3 or 4 links before actually getting to the policy. I know of many Tivo owners who were concerned about their privacy were in an absolute uproar about this.
        There has been a number debates about Tivo's privacy policy, but I believe they have done a very good job. I don't know what event you are refering to, but I don't believe it to be true. If you could provide a link I could make an intelligent responce.

        Replay TV refused to share your private information and were almost forced to do so. They paid lawyers to keep my information to themselves [com.com].
        Yes, good for them. But to my knowledge Tivo has never shared personal viewing information with anyone. They do share aggregate data, and have always been up front about this.

        Replay TV has allowed for me to access my Replay TV from anywhere with an internet connection [myreplaytv.com]. I have heard that Tivo has also adopted this. Not sure though.
        Tivo currently doesn't provide this feature, but it looks like they are planning to do this in the future. However if you hack your Tivo, you can get TivoWeb [lightn.org], which I imagine has more capabilities than myreplaytv simply because of how it works.

        Replay TV gave me the 30 second skip [techtv.com] so that I can easily bypass commercials. I believe Tivo has also snagged this feature as well?
        Yes, but you have to press a few buttons to active a backdoor to get this feature.

        One thing that Tivo has over Replay is that it was the first to let you can hack it to add larger drives.
        Yes, and a lot of other hacks too. ReplayTV does now too.

        Overall, features on both are very similar, though the methodology to record shows is a little different. Replay gives you more pause time as it isn't just recording things it THINKS you MIGHT like. Replay makes you be specific about what you want to record, though they have theme recording channels. Tivo is programed to make certain assumptions about what you want it to record in addition to what you specifically specify.
        This is a rather misleading statement. You have full control over what your tivo records. Although you can argue the merits of the different systems. The suggestions that tivo finds, only records to any extra space you have, and will never delete or preempt anything you have told it to record. And you can turn off suggestions if you want.

        Bottom, line, do the math and find yourself the best deal. Even if one or both went out of business, we'd make a hack to grab the programing information anyway.
        Agreed

  • by ferratus (244145) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:01AM (#4453383) Homepage
    Here in Canada (at least where I live), the only way to get PVR functionnality is to get the satellite dish with the high-end receiver with pvr integrated.

    As far as I know, this is the only way to get at. At 600$ canadian (ok, so it's about 25$ US) it's quite pricey and I hate to encourage a monopoly.

    Hopefully this stuff will have lower prices soon...
    • Yes, PVR technology in Canada is still not here. What we really need right now is for the big cable companies (Rogers, Shaw, Videotron) to roll out their PVR enabled digital receivers and for our big electronic shops (i.e Futureshop) to carry some independant PVR solutions. It's really stupid, they have 15 000 dollards plasma on display (and like 10 different models) but they don't sell any PVR at all, at least in the montreal region.

      And just like you, I'm not about to switch to Bell tv just for the PVR capability.
      • I want FutureShop to get off its ass way more than I want Rogers to roll it into their Digital set-top box.

        I tried Rogers' free digital preview and it was *lame* (IMHO) - the current channels aren't really broadcast in digital, so they don't look or sound any different. The new channels were so incredibly underwhelming that getting them for free didn't seem like a bargain. If they paid me I still might not watch them.

        There's plenty of TV on the first 50 channels that I don't see because I'm never home at normal hours. I want a PVR that doesn't come with another monthly fee from my local cable monopoly.
      • It's not the retailers like Future Shop who are at fault here... TiVo and ReaplyTV simply do not offer the programming guide data for Canada. It's been pissing me off for years. The guide data is available from other sources, but you'll have fun getting your TiVo to actully find it and use it (it IS possible, but not easy.)

        You can buy a PVR from the US and use it in Canada, but you won't get any of the really useful features. What you get is basically a really expensive VCR with about the same quality as an S-VHS deck.

    • I was really hoping that the quesiton whould be asked on when they would start selling them in Canada (It's not like we are some far flung third world country is it?)
  • Good news to hear (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Wo-Fat (197418)
    ReplayTV should be around a long time to come if they remember to refer to their lawyers. Its a sad state of affairs that it has to be like that, but thats the only way to keep from being shut down in that business.
  • "[itvt]: Will you be able to plug your portable device into the ReplayTV 4500 and record from there?"

    "Ballard: It's unclear if it will be for the 4500 or for future devices. It's all still up for debate."


    Can anyone say the Archos Jukebox Multimedia? I'd like to see Replay interface with this little gadget.

    http://www.archos.com/lang=en/products/prw_50034 7. html?country=cn
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:08AM (#4453432) Journal
    Record one show on one channel while allowing me to watch another on another channel.

    Sky+ does this, but I'd rather have a device that isn't quite so tightly tied to the broadcast organisation since I'd rather have someone a little more neutral making decisions about what it will and will not record. TiVO will allow me to watch a previously recorded show while recording, which is nice, but not what I want.
    • The DirecTV + TiVo combo units will do this. As a matter of fact, you can record 2 shows on different channels while watching something you've previously recorded. I think that a standalone dual-tuner DVR would be more expensive since it would have to have 2 mpeg encoders. The satellite combo boxes are less expensive since just store the stream as it comes in.
    • by crow (16139) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:20AM (#4453501) Homepage Journal
      That's not too hard to do if you have the tuner integrated into the system. I believe you can do that with the DirecTiVo. With a stand-alone box, though, it's pretty pointless to bother setting up that feature, as most people are using cable boxes that only decode one channel at a time.

      What I want is to see addressable converters become something that you can buy instead of rent from your cable company. I want to see them integrated with VCRs, TVs, and PVRs in the same way that cable-ready tuners are ubiquitous today. Once you eliminate the need for an independent tuner, there's no reason you can't sell several models of ReplayTV with different numbers of tuners.

      In the meantime, people who are far more serious about TV than I am will set up two or three ReplayTV units, each with their own cable box. (Really, people do that; I'm glad I don't watch that much TV.)
      • Correct... the DirecTivo has a dual tuner so if you have a dual LNB dish you can use the 2 channels independently. I almost never watch live TV so for me this means that I can record 2 channels while watching a previously recorded show.

        Brian Macy
    • I may be totally off on the situation, but is seems to me that a T connector to which both the Tivo and your TV can connect would do it.
      • For cable TV, yes, this would work just fine (Using a splitter).

        For Satellite, it's far more complicated. Each input needs to be able to arbitrarily tune in even or odd transponders, and cannot do both simultaneously. You have to use multiswitches, and other assorted voo-doo to make it all go.

        For detailed information, go to here [tivocommunity.com].

      • Tivo already has a through port. I can record a normal unencrypted terrestrial TV show while watching something through cable, or record from cable while watching terrestrial. The problem is I only have one cable tuner.
    • It really would be nice to be able to watch one thing and record another, or record multiple things.

      The problem is tuners. You need one tuner per feed, with no execptions. With the current technology of tuners right now it isn't really resonable to put more then two in a set top box as far as cost, and space go.

      What will make DVR technology better in my mind is signal tuners that can tune to multiple (10?, more?) stations at once, and DVRs with enough processing power to actually record that much data.

      For now I settle with two tuners, one so I can watch a show and the other so I can record too...
      • Ummm... No.

        It's true that adding an additional tuner to the standalone Tivo would add cost. Aside from the tuners themselves, which are actually fairly inexpensive (what does a vanilla cable box cost? $30), the real cost lies in the MPEG encoding hardware. That's why you don't see such a product today.

        However, all of the DirecTivo models (Sony, Phillips, and Hughes) have dual tuners built-in. DirecTivos don't need MPEG encoding hardware, because it's an MPEG digital stream coming down from the bird. DirecTivos simply record this stream directly to the unit's hard drive.

        I routinely record two shows simulateously while viewing a third that I'd previously recorded.

    • > Record one show on one channel while allowing me to watch another on another channel.

      The DirecTV/Tivo box supports this, the dual tuner capability is absolutely lovely. With dual tuners, you can watch live & record another channel, or record 2 channels & watch a recorded one. Honestly once you've been using Tivo for a while you don't watch any live tv anyways.

      Before when only 1 tuner was supported I ran into alot of conflicts with 2 things being on at the same time. Since they activated the second tuner last year, I've only had very rare occasions were there were 3 shows on at the same time.
      • Yeah. That's exatly what I want (all of you). Trouble is, I don't live in the US, so don't get DirectTV. We get Sky. they have a similar system called Sky+ [sky.com], but I'm not sure how similar.

        What I do know is that Sky are a pretty lousy company with some lousy products. My experience of their user interface (at least with their normal STB) has put me off buying their products. Tivo on the other hand has a very nice UI.
    • you can do this by getting yourself a second cable box. Where I live, AT&T charges about $5 for a second box per month. I hook one cable box into the ReplayTV, the other ito an aux in my VCR. Thus, when the ReplayTV records something I don't want to watch right now, I can switch over to the VCR input with the second Cable feed.

      I can also watch a "recorded show" while it records a show that is playing "live".

  • by Alsee (515537) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:10AM (#4453442) Homepage
    how he sees ReplayTV PVR stacking up against Tivo this upcoming holiday season

    Well, they are both packaged in rectangular boxes of about the same size. I'd say they'd stack up against each other pretty evenly.

    -
  • Whatever, man. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Emmettfish (573105) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:10AM (#4453444) Homepage
    There are a lot of people out there mailing hardware manufacturers to let them know about Ogg Vorbis, asking about Vorbis support, etc. Here's an excerpt from a customer service mail from SonicBLUE that was passed to me last week:

    Information for future upgrades to newer formats is not available at this time. Please continue to check our website for further information.

    Please note that almost all current Rio players support the WMA format, this codec that will provide digital quality sound at 64k encoding rates. The newest WMA codec WMA9 is by far the best audio compression codec in the world and is supported in all of our players that offer WMA support.

    In the words of the Filthy Critic: "Hey, whore! How's the whoring?"

    Emmett

    • Re:Whatever, man. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by altman (2944)
      Don't be so sure :)

      Where hardware permits & all that sort of thing...

      Hugo
      • In case anyone missed it, the comment above is from one of the lead audio engineers for SonicBlue. (Aka, what was empeg is now the only audio department in SonicBlue now).
  • by jerrytcow (66962) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:11AM (#4453447) Homepage
    I've always seen poor customer service and poor product quality as sonicblue/rio's biggest problem. I've heard from many people that until these are fixed they will never buy a sonicblue product.

    My girlfriend and I each bought a Rio500 about 2 years ago. Both stopped working and were returned to the online store. She got a refund, but I had it replaced. I had to send it in twice within a year to have it repaired. Their customer service was no help - each time they made it a huge hassle to send it in. The second time they had it for 4 or 5 months before they returned it. I was browsing online forums during this time to try to find out what was wrong and found many people with the same problems/complaints.

    Someone pointed me to this BBB link [bbbsilicon.org] which basically says
    Based on BBB files, this company has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau.Specifically, our records show a pattern of non-response to consumer complaints brought to its attention by the Bureau.

    The BBB has two ratings: satisfactory and unsatisfactory, and it very difficult to receive the latter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:11AM (#4453448)
    In the TiVo vs. Replay war, the one who will win will be the first one to get their boxes on all Wal-Mart shelves well before Christmas. That giant retailer could do more for either PVR company than any cable box deal this season.
    • TiVo has had an exclusive deal with Best Buy since the Series 2 was introduced. That's only B&M store you'll find TiVo at. The Series 1 TiVos were sold at Wal-Mart, Target, etc (I bought my HDR212 at Target). I saw a 14 hr Series 1 sitting on a Wal Mart shelf about 6 months ago. Still priced at the $299 price point they were first introduced at.
    • I don't think there's enough SonicBlue stock out there to buy shelf space at Wal-Mart(TM).
  • ReplayTV 4500 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sfbanutt (116292) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:12AM (#4453451) Homepage
    We just got a replayTV 4500 and I love it. The commercial advance is pretty amazing, I've not seen it skip over programming yet, but it skips at least 75% of the commercials automatically and on some shows, it gets 'em all. It'll also allow you to record from DVD or VHS sources as well as saving recorded shows to a VCR. We bought it initially because they were out of TiVos at the store, but now I'm glad we did.

    jim
    • Record from DVD?? Does it ignore Macrovision, or preserve it on outputs of Macrovision-recorded-stuff, or what?
      • TiVo simply records the MacroVision along with the signal. It also records closed captioning and VBI data like the "press thumbs up to record" called TivoMatic.
      • The manual says it preserves it. I've not tried archiving something from a DVD to VHS though, as I've found something more interesting. There's a project on sourceforge called DVarchive that lets you create a virtual replayTV on your PC, you can then transfer programs from the replay to your PC (and back) to watch either on the pc or just to save. I've found it useful for recording something like junkyard wars, then watching it on the bus on the way into work the next day.

        jim
    • Just got this the other day. It has an RJ45 connector on the back that hooks into you LAN. I have it going into my router with NAT addressing and it works just fine. It literally plug in and was assigned an IP then connected to replytv's servers across the network and downloaded all the channel stuff within a few minutes.

      The cool thing is I can pull shows off the replaytv across the network and store them on a PC. I can also put them back on it with DVArchive. Tivo may have thumbs up but this sits on the LAN out of the box - how is that not more cool?

      I read that it removes macrovision - could you play a DVD through it? I haven't tried. It has three sets of inputs that can be selected from the remote.

      I have two friends with Tivos and they love them but they want a LAN connection even more.
    • Can you save the shows to CD-R as VCDs?
  • by /ASCII (86998) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:12AM (#4453454) Homepage
    Is this the same Greg Ballard who used to be the CEO of 3dfx [fool.com]?
    If so, isn't it the consensus that bad management drove 3dfx to the ground?
    • Some guy. There's been some weird stuff going on in the SonicBlue boardroom with the ousting of their previous CEO and such.
  • by mbourgon (186257) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:15AM (#4453470) Homepage
    1) Portable device to watch shows on, downloaded from the ReplayTV
    2) "we'll use whatever DRM system [Hollywood] ultimately certify"
    3) Heavily marketing the Commercial Skip this winter
  • Tivo Vs Replay (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Obviously you peeps have never used a Direct Tivo vs a Replay. A DTIVO will record 2 seperate shows and play a third show (previously recorded) all at the same time. NO OTHER PVR/DVR can do this. No OTHER PVR/DVR is linux based and hackable like a DTIVO. Now in Nov. 9th Tee begins shipping an expander for DTIVO to put 4 IDE hard drives in your DTIVO (thats more than 1000 hours of shows) As for commercial skip, you really need just to load the advance button on your remote for that! And i thought Slashdot peeps are supposed to be technically advanced, guess not!!!!

    Replay....you tools of Microsloth!!!

    • A DTIVO will record 2 seperate shows and play a third show (previously recorded) all at the same time. NO OTHER PVR/DVR can do this.

      Technically you're right, but the UltimateTV had this ability out of the box when they were first released while DirecTiVo owners waited for the software upgrade to enable the 2nd tuner. Of course, UTV is now dead, so you are technically correct.

  • TV... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ekephart (256467) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:21AM (#4453509) Homepage
    I'm sorry, but I don't care how high-tech TV gets I still won't pay for it. I get a few channels by default with my cable modem. And I mean a few, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, UPN, WB, Discovery. I basically only watch the WB and FOX for the Simpsons and once in a while the Discovery channel just for those cool forensics shows. I guess I'm out of sync with the general public but IMHO TV programming by and large is worthless.

    Go mods go, flaimbait, offtopic, troll.
    • I don't get it, you ARE paying for TV.
    • Re:TV... (Score:5, Funny)

      by damiangerous (218679) <1ndt7174ekq80001@sneakemail.com> on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @12:42PM (#4454238)
      I guess I'm out of sync with the general public but IMHO TV programming by and large is worthless.

      No, it's still pretty trendy here on Slashdot to speak condescendingly of the "idiot box" and brag about how you only have a television set because you're forced to for some byzantine reason and you really wouldn't watch the awful thing if you could possibly avoid it. I'd say you're quite in sync with the arrogant prick crowd, if that's what you're aiming for.

    • IMHO TV programming by and large is worthless

      I must agree here. I havent watched network TV in years, exception being monday night football and sunday games. All the networks are crap, Reality TV is an insult to human intelligence, MTV is single handedly making kids stupid. Im sure many /.s will agree that the only channels worth watching are TLC, Discovery, FOOD, A&E, Science Channel, and a few others. These are the educational networks, full of great documentary material and informative programs. I also watch HBO for the soprano's.

      I went many years without watching any tv at all, just used netflix premium to rent 10 dvds a week or so. Of course this wil lall change when ATT brings HDTV to the home, then I will watch much more stupid network TV just cause it looks soooo goood.
  • I haven't owned a DVR, but my wife and I were considering buying one. I noticed that there was a subscription fee for Tivo. What exactly is the subcription for? Why is it needed? And do the two companies (Tivo,Replay) charge about the same?
    • "What exactly is the subcription for?"

      The subscription is to the service that provides you with scheduling information, so that the unit knows what shows are on when. This lets it automatically record shows that have changed timeslots, and it lets you pick shows to record by browing show listings rather than requiring you to enter an actual time.

      Also, with the ReplayTV units, the price of the service is just included in the unit price as a one-time fee. If you don't want to go the subscription route, Tivo offers a similar deal for $250, which gives you the service for the lifetime of your Tivo. So it's really just that Tivo is giving you more payment options for the service.

      • TiVo has recently discontinued the Lifetime Service offering. Also, for the DirecTV + TiVo combo boxes, the TiVo subscription fee (now only $4.95) is waived if you subscribe the highest tier of satellite programming (Total Choice Platinum).
        • TiVo has recently discontinued the Lifetime Service offering.

          Umm, no, they have not. They discontinued yearly service sometime last year. As of two days ago Lifetime was an available option, and there have been no announcements of any upcoming changes. Can you produce one?

        • The TiVo lifetime subscription offering is discontinued only for the DirecTV combo TiVo boxes - it makes little sense now that the monthly fee is under $5. (If you already have the lifetime option, it stays in force, but there is some question as to whether it is still tied to the box or to your DirecTV account.) The lifetime sub is still available for the standalone boxes ($249).
      • Tivo offers a similar deal for $250, which gives you the service for the lifetime of your Tivo. So it's really just that Tivo is giving you more payment options for the service.

        Recently, just a few months after the release of the 4500, ReplayTV has changed their model to add a subscription option. The top of the line 320 hour ReplayTV 4500 was $1999. They reduced the price to $1749, with either a monthly fee or a $250 lifetime (of the unit) fee (all models were dropped by $250). Since then, they reduced prices on all their units again, bringing that price down to $1399 ($1299 w/a $100 rebate thru mid october), but I am still happy with my old 3030 (30 hour unit) for now.

        Anyway, point is - both TiVo and ReplayTV seem to have the same options now, though I don't understand why anyone would go for monthly payments anyway... who needs another monthly bill?
    • The subsription is for the channel listings, you need them so that you can set the box to record the programs you want and for the DVR to change to the correct channel on the STB. This data also contains the details about series of shows and repeat details so that a season ticket can be set up to make sure you never miss an episode.

      I personally use a Tivo in the UK, the cost is £10/month or £200 for life.

      I'm sorry I have no idea what the costs are for Replay
  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:24AM (#4453533)
    Bought one over a Tivo specifically for the "commercial advance" feature. It's brilliant! But, uh, yeah, I can see the advertisers and the networks who take the advertisers' money getting their noses out of joint. (Note to SonicBlue: This feature works approx. 90% of the time. I'm guessing it looks for a 7.5 IRE black signal which it recognizes as the start of a break. Some cartoons, and a few of the more arty/Gothic shows (e.g., Buffy) seem to incorporate this pure black into some transitions.)

    Interestingly, the purchase of the Box caused me to order more channels from DirecTV. Prior to owning one, "there was never anything good on" when I watched TV (which was usually when I was feeding a child or performing some other paternal act). Now -- a veritable virtual library of programs culled from the recently ordered History International, Discovery Science, DIY -- all the next-tier networks I thought sounded "cool" before but that I knew I would never have time to watch.

    PVR's will simply crush the market for pre-school tape vids from networks like Noggin, 'Toon, and PBSKids. I got my own (Commercial Free!) kids channel now.

    Seriously thinking of getting another box for the bedroom and/or office...

    No, I'm not a SonicBlue employee or affiliated with them in anyway, but, I am enjoying being able to sing a product's praises for once instead of ripping it to shreds.
  • I'm sorry, I can't get particularly excited about the fine differences between these different systems or these claims of "innovation". We are talking "digital video recorder"--a box with a hard disk and a frame grabber/buffer. It takes video in, stores it in a file, and plays it back when you like. When the Gods are merciful, you can even do the two simultaneously. You can easily put one together yourself if you like. TiVo wasn't the first to figure this one out either, they were just the first to market when declining prices made a consumer product possible.

    In the long run, this will (or at least should) be replaced by IP-based multicast and video-on-demand anyway.

  • TiVo Price Drop (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Evanrude (21624) <david@@@fattyco...org> on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:36AM (#4453602) Homepage Journal
    I think if TiVo did something crazy like - cut their prices in ... half? or one quarter off. Something drastic (either for the unit itself or the subscription price...or both!) They would attract a broader market who could actually afford the device. If they did something like this around the holiday season, TiVo could be the "big gift" this year.
    • Re:TiVo Price Drop (Score:3, Informative)

      by Pii (1955)
      How much cheaper do you want them to make it?

      The standalone units require expensive MPEG encoding hardware... That's why they are more expensive than DirecTivo combp units.

      I bought my first DirecTivo last year, new, at Best Buy, for $119.00. (Practically free)

      My new Series 2 DirecTivo only cost me $199.00 (I've pre-oredered it... It hasn't yet arrived).

      The manufacturers (Sony, Phillips, Hughes) get a kick back (subsidy) from Tivo that already keeps the price down to where it is today. Tivo really can't afford to subsidize them any further. With the subscription, it already takes a while to make up the cost of the subsidy, and still longer to hit the break even point.

      A person that bought a unit, and bought the lifetime subscription at the time of purchase, represented a loss for Tivo.

      I don't know where that stands today, but I can't imagine it changed that much. That's why the lifetime subscriptions are going away.

      • The manufacturers (Sony, Phillips, Hughes) get a kick back (subsidy) from Tivo that already keeps the price down to where it is today.

        Not any more. That was true with the Series 1 boxes, but not with the current (Series 2) boxes. Or so I've been told.

      • Just as a side note, those prices are less than half of what those units cost when they were first released.

        Also, the new Series II combo boxes are supposed to be $199.
        • They are indeed only $199.00. (I've pre-paid for mine from Circuit City)

          However, you can get Circuit City to go $10 cheaper if you take a printed copy of this [kpog.com] receipt.

          Tivo Community [tivocommunity.com] is your friend.

      • I am talking more about the standard TiVo, not DirecTiVo. Yes, the MPEG-II hardware is more expensive for those people that don't have DirecTV. I am not talking about keeping the prices high, just lower them for the holidays and get more people hooked. Raise them back up after the new year. Maybe it is a bad idea, who knows.
        • It's not a bad idea... I just don't know if it's economically viable for them to do at this point. I think others have pointed out how much operating capital Tivo has at thier disposal, and I don't know if they could afford the float right now.

          It makes good sense in one respect: Tivo's revenue lies not in the sale of the hardware, but rather in the long term subscriptions. (This is starting to change, as Tivo moves from a "box" company to a capability company, with their technology inherent to various set-top boxes (Satellite recievers, Cable boxes, etc.)

          Lowering the unit cost simply pushes out the break even point on a per unit basis. It's a good strategy, long term, but to pull it off you need to be able to stay afloat until you reach profitability.

          Do they have the cash cushion that it would require? I'm not sure.

          Maybe someone that has better knowledge of their financial picture will jump in.

  • I would like to hear your thoughts on the Tablet PC/Web Tablet that you are making. The ProGear box.

    How big do you think that these will be in the industry? Do you think that they will be just another PDA type of device or something more?

    Can you see them being used for things other than the obvious? I think that they will be great for health care and education type applications. But are they going to be able to make it mainstream?

    Are you going to make a more PC like version of this (similar to the Fujitsu model)? I've seen the accessories and they are getting you close to having a desktop - but the word appliance scares me away a little.

    And when will the prices start to drop? :)

    I have a desktop, a handheld, and a notebook. Do you see the Tablet PC replacing any or all of these? I really like the fact that you power it on and its up and running (like my Ipaq). Do you see that feature as the most promising one for these devices?

    Thanks for you time.

    Duke

  • by skryche (26871) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:42AM (#4453659) Homepage
    "SONICBlue"

    It's so meaningless and marketroid I can't stand it. Vague reference to music ("Sonic"), hip, yet relaxing color ("Blue"). You know there was a focus group involved. Not to mention the mixed CAPSlowercase. It sounds like a DRM technology company like LiquidAudio or some dead dot-com.

    "Tivo" is much more cuddly.

  • by guidemaker (570195)
    • Archive direct to DVD-R - Panasonic have launched a PVR in the UK that does this, but it doesn't have the smarts of a TiVo or ReplayTV
    • Bulk Archive. TiVo only lets you archive one programme at a time - I want to chain them to dump a block to my DVD-R.
    • Better tracking of programme times. Not a big problem in the states, I hear, but here in the UK the major channels have distinct problems running to time, so we frequently miss the end of shows, unless we put padding in, and then we can't record two shows back-to-back because the padding overlaps with the next show... Don't know how good ReplayTV is on this score, but TiVo suffers very badly. I end up having to do manual recording blocks, which defeats the point of having a smart device.
    • Well as a replay owner this does happen to us too. But this is more or less a fault of the TV stations than the devices. They release there programming information to a 3rd party (TMS I believe) and the 3rd party supplies the info to both TiVo and Replay. So if the Networks don't abide by what they tell the 3rd party then it is nearly impossible to record the show correctly.
    • With my Replay I can set options for a show to start x minutes early and/or stop y minutes after so you can add padding fairly easily, but it has to be configured when each show is configured for recording.

      One problem, though, is that the Replay only handles NTSC.
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @11:47AM (#4453725) Homepage

    Here are the pertinent issues:

    • SONICblue claim that most people are only using the Send Show feature within their house, not to distribute content to friends, families and <insert current boogieman enemy of truth, justice and distributor profits>.
    • SONICblue already have their own DRM that stops further propagation of recorded content after one transfer, and will adopt any studio suggested DRM standard as soon as it's decided.
    • They're going to lay off more staff, but probably not a lot (this is what "We don't have anything planned" usually means)
    • He has no idea how to eat into TiVo's market lead (stating that you're aiming for 30-40% of the market means you think you'll get 10%)
    • Sorry, one idea. They're going to go hog wild pushing the Commercial Skip feature, and damn the lawyers. And he's not bothered about working with the content pushers to come up with an alternative, as he says that the product has too small a market share to make a difference.
    • To put all of this into context though, he admits to being a lawyer and wanting to go into politics. So, translating, this means that ReplayTV is used only to send premium content to North Korea and Iraq, that they've already laid off all of their staff and will be suing them to recover past salaries, and that he personally will kill ReplayTV in return for a suitcase full of small non-sequential unmarked bills, a goldfish bowl full of crack, and a nekkid wrasslin' match with a roofied Britney Spears. Or perhaps I'm just reading too much between the lines.
  • We got it at our house...

    "select,play,select,3,0,select"

    Voila! "jump to end" is now "30-second skip".

    Next!
  • What is the point (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Now that more and more channels are introducing a 'plus one hour' version, I.E. see the program that was on at 6 PM, at 7 PM, and now that there are so many repeats on TV, I think the need to record TV is quickly decreasing.

    Nowadays, I think that films on TV are a waste of airtime, because you can just buy the films you want on the format of your choice, (for me, that would be Laserdisc, not DVD, but that's a different point).

    Broadcast television should be reserved for things like news, sport, (which I don't have much interest in, but others do), documentaries, anime, etc, etc. Films, which you don't want to have commercials in, should be on sale as soon as they have finished in the cinema.

    I am watching less and less TV these days, and I can't even remember the last time I recorded something, (over a month ago), and I don't mean record to keep, I mean I haven't timeshifted anything either - if I've had to go out, I've just thought, well, it's only a TV programme, who cares if I miss one episode? If I record it, unless I watch it within about 24 hours, somebody will have probably told me what is going to happen, and then it will be spoiled anyway.

    Before home VCRs, when the only way to buy a film was to buy the 10-minute, silent, Super-8 version, there was a point to films on TV. Now that practically everybody has a VCR, what is the point? Eventually, solid state video recorderes will be cheaper than the VHS machines of today - just a box with an MPEG-4 decoder, and a USB-2 socket, that you plug a ROM chip in to - how much would that cost? Practically nothing. It could probably be made for $10, and sold for $20.

    So, my idea is to stop showing films on TV, and use that bandwidth for more useful things - news, sport, local TV, local TV from other regions, etc, etc. It would help broadcasters, too, because they wouldn't have so many copyright issues to deal with - if they are producing their own content, they can do what they like with it.

    Watch films in the cinema, where the quality is good - no matter how much you spend on home entertainment equipment, you will never be able to watch a film off-air at the same quality you can watch it in the cinema. Even HDTV is not close to 35mm film, (others may disagree on that point).

    With no films being broadcast, it neatly solves the problem of home recording!
    • Now that more and more channels are introducing a 'plus one hour' version, I.E. see the program that was on at 6 PM, at 7 PM, and now that there are so many repeats on TV, I think the need to record TV is quickly decreasing.

      you're still watching on someone else's schedule, and you're spending an hour watching 40 minutes of programming....

      With no films being broadcast, it neatly solves the problem of home recording!

      you think no one records anything but movies off tv? I rarely record movies - I prefer to watch a dvd, or go to the theater...

      I can find quite a bit of programming that I'm interested in watching, as long as I can watch it when I want. The few things I still watch live are news (rarely) and sporting events.
    • I'm sorry, but your aside about laserdiscs kinda throws all possible credibility out the door around here ;-)
  • No questions about HDTV? what gives?
  • by ny_cable_guy (595389) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @02:31PM (#4455172)
    The standalone PVR could soon be a thing of the past.

    TiVo and Replay are both trying with mixed results to enter the cable set top box market. The cable companies don't want to give another company revenue if they can keep it for themselves.

    " Scientific Atlanta [scientificatlanta.com] which makes the digital set top boxes for Time Warner cable and others has recently started shipping the Explorer 8000 [scientificatlanta.com] which has PVR capabilities.

    Among other things, it allows you to record two programs while watching a third from the hard disk.

    The cable companies will much rather keep the $10-15 per month extra that they could charge for this box, rather than share it with Replay or TiVo. And the customer will not have to shell out $400-$500 upfront to get it. Look for the SciAtl box to gain significant marketshare as PVRs gain more household penetration.
  • I've said it before, and I'll say it again...

    SonicBLUE needs to put Ogg Vorbis support into their Rio line before I'll buy any of their products.
  • It seems like TiVo is more of a cult than a business (see link http://slate.msn.com/?id=2072037 ). SonicBlue looks like a much better company to me. I stopped watching TV a few years ago (except sports), then last year I bought a Dish DVR it allows me to watch what I want, when I want. Some of my friends have DVR's and the SonicBlue one is clearly the best. I watch 1 hr a day of TV and it's exactly what I want to see. I want a Replay so I can watch 1 1/2 hours of programming during my hour.
  • Which DVR, if any, will let me simply program a time and channel to record from my DirecTV system without paying a recurring monthly fee? I don't care about having access to listings, I just want to use it as a glorified VCR.

    Thanks.
  • But the greatest Electrical Pioneer of them all was Thomas Edison, who was a
    brilliant inventor despite the fact that he had little formal education and
    lived in New Jersey. Edison's first major invention in 1877, was the
    phonograph, which could soon be found in thousands of American homes, where
    it basically sat until 1923, when the record was invented. But Edison's
    greatest achievement came in 1879, when he invented the electric company.
    Edison's design was a brilliant adaptation of the simple electrical circuit:
    the electric company sends electricity through a wire to a customer, then
    immediately gets the electricity back through another wire, then (this is
    the brilliant part) sends it right back to the customer again.

    This means that an electric company can sell a customer the same batch of
    electricity thousands of times a day and never get caught, since very few
    customers take the time to examine their electricity closely. In fact the
    last year any new electricity was generated in the United States was 1937;
    the electric companies have been merely re-selling it ever since, which is
    why they have so much free time to apply for rate increases.
    -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

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