TiVo Moves Out of the Living Room

Some TiVo customers woke up Monday to find a new option available on their digital video recorders, or DVRs. Called TiVoToGo, the feature enables subscribers to transfer television programming and digital media between their Series 2 TiVos and computers or laptops.

The announcement comes at a time when the competitive landscape has become increasingly pitted and rocky for TiVo, with cable providers and competitors such as Microsoft incorporating DVR into products as a generic function.

In response to this convergence of digital media and consumer electronics, TiVo is changing its product positioning by stressing product differentiation. In essence -- through the uniqueness of TiVoToGo -- the company has manufactured a way to distinguish itself from the competition and potentially influence demand.

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TiVo says TiVoToGo is the first step in allowing its users more freedom of where they can watch recorded programming, and it has plans to extend the service to other types of mobile devices. This includes an option to burn recorded content to DVD, which will be released later this year.

However, the company made it clear in comments to the media that recorded content was not to be distributed. Anyone caught doing so could face account termination. "We're trying to send a clear message that TiVoToGo is for personal use only," Jim Denney, marketing director for TiVo added. "We're putting appropriate safeguards in place to keep people from rampantly sharing the content."

TiVo has implemented a digital rights management solution from Macrovision to block copyrighted content from being transferred to laptops, and encrypts data during transfers. In order to play back encrypted content, customers must first enter in a password that is provided during the desktop software's installation.

Initially, TiVoToGo will only be available to those customers using a computer running Windows 2000 or XP. However, TiVo did indicate a Macintosh version would be available in the coming months. The company also said that the new service will only be available to customers with a TiVo box; DirecTV DVR customers are not able to use the service.

The idea of leveraging the capabilities of today's PCs as hubs for digital entertainment sounds familiar because it is not new. Vendors including Microsoft and SnapStream Media already ship software that transforms PCs into veritable home entertainment systems, which, in their latest incarnation, can extend service to portable electronic devices and television sets.

Standalone Series2 TiVo subscribers who do not wish to wait for the software's phased roll out can sign up for priority distribution at TiVo's Web site. The service is a free upgrade.

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