TiVo Is On the Go

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By Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)
January 3, 2005

In a nod to its growing need to provide services that other digital video recorder (or DVR) providers don't offer, TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO) has announced its long-awaited TiVoToGo service. The new service will give TiVo a more mobile air.

According to TiVo's press announcement, those with standalone Series2 TiVo boxes will be able to access content they've recorded using laptops running Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows XP and 2000. Word has it that while Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) Mac users can't use it yet, a version for Mac loyalists is being planned. For the time being, the service won't be available to those TiVo users who get the service through DirecTV (NYSE: DTV).

Eventually, those with TiVoToGo (which is free of charge to subscribers with the Series2 boxes) will be able to burn programs onto DVDs as well, but that capability is not yet live.

Of course, copyright remains a concern, and users will not be able to transport copyright-protected content. Safeguards such as access codes will be in place to make sure that content transmission is limited to users' own household members and no one else.

It's been apparent for some time that TiVo's challenge is to find ways to offer capabilities that cable providers haven't incorporated into their own DVR offerings. TiVoToGo is part of the company's larger goal to change the way people watch TV. Meanwhile, many of us are still waiting to hear how exactly its deal with Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) will shape up.

However, while TiVo may be entering a space with a lot of potential, it's not one free of competition. Our own Foolish Seth Jayson recently wrote about Microsoft's similar aims. Meanwhile, today The Wall Street Journal reported that SBC Communications (NYSE: SBC) will offer its Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) DSL customers satellite TV, video on demand, digital video recording, and broadband content by mid-2005.

I have always been very optimistic about TiVo's ability to form a user-friendly bridge between TV and PC -- and I think that it has been TiVo's ability to innovate that sets it apart. Investors were excited about today's development, but unfortunately, the risks and competitive challenges haven't been alleviated much. Although this move does differentiate TiVo from cable operators for the time being, since other companies see the opportunity in convergence and are embarking on similar endeavors, there's still no room for slack. TiVo must continue to push ahead in order to defend its position from a widening number of players.

Want more on TiVo? Here's additional Fool content:

TiVo, SBC, and Netflix are all Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Try it for six months, risk free, by clicking here. Or, if you want to talk TiVo, pull up a space on our TiVo discussion board, where Fools are currently talking about today's developments. 

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned, although she is an avid TiVo user.