TiVo turns into digital picture frame with Photobucket and Picasa

TiVo is continuing effort to establish its set-top boxes as full-fledged entertainment centers, but the company is facing increased pressure from Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PS3.

The race to dominate the living room is not a new one, but its been an uphill battle for many companies, and Apple's recent TV effort fell flat despite the success of its iPod and iTunes duet. But TiVo is in a unique position in that it already has its DVRs in homes -- now it just needs to expand their capabilities.

All TiVos are now broadband-enabled, meaning the company is able to pull content on demand from the Internet. What started with looking up weather forecasts and movie showtimes has expanded into podcast downloads and even full movie rentals thanks to a deal with Amazon's Unbox service.

Now, TiVo is bolstering its photo capabilities through deals with Photobucket and Google's Picasa Web Albums. Subscribers will be able to view images on their television in high-resolution, and creating slideshows of images. A user can also browse for shared photos uploaded by others by typing in keywords via the TiVo interface.

TiVo subscribers will find the photo sharing application through the Music, Photos, Products & More screen, and it is available free of charge. Previously, users could only view photos shared from their PC over a local network.

It's not yet clear whether such add-on services can help TiVo fend off growing competition. Most set-top boxes from cable and IPTV providers like Verizon's FiOS have built-in DVR features, and many users balk at TiVo's monthly $12.95 charge. In addition, both Microsoft and Sony are bulking up their video game consoles -- which reach over 20 million homes combined -- with multimedia capabilities.

Still, TiVo customers aren't likely to complain about new features showing up on their boxes, and the additions could help lure in more subscribers during the holiday season. As pointed out by TiVo vice president of marketing Jim Denney, the television remains the best picture frame in the house -- especially with the growing number of high-definition sets.

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