As the TiVo Turns

My regular readers know that I used to live and work outside Silicon Valley. It's a wonderful place, mostly. The weather is nice. The mountains are majestic. And the geeks who live and work there come up with brilliant business ideas.

Witness Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) . Or TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO  ) , for that matter. Both have broken with long-held industry traditions, flying a pirate flag while sailing toward higher sales and -- at least in Google's case -- profits. Revolution is the norm in Silicon Valley, and the latest salvo might be a rumored TiVo killer from Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) .

Apple's iTunes has made it possible to legally download music and TV shows to your computer anytime, for about a buck. Is it any wonder the powers that be in entertainment have been quaking in their boots? Well, it could get even scarier. Spy site Think Secret reports that Apple will unveil a Mac mini with TiVo-like features at the annual Macworld trade show/lovefest in January.

Don't get too hyper. Yeah, I know it looks like this would make good on Apple's long-held promise to make the Mac a digital hub for your living room -- a one-stop shop for recording TV shows or directly downloading TV episodes and movies on demand. Certainly, today's Macs can handle TiVo functions just fine; several third-party devices already let Mac users encode and record TV shows to their hard drives. But anything more sophisticated, like an iTunes Movie Store or the online storage of users' recorded shows, might require Apple or a similarly ambitious rival to enlist a broadband partner to meet the sizable bandwidth demands involved. (That's why I lobbied for Google to marry TiVo last week.)

I'm not saying Apple can't make a run at the living room, of course. As fellow Fool Seth Jayson pointed out to me last week, it has the software. It has the design savvy. It has relationships everywhere it counts, from Hollywood to Motown. All that remains is the network. To date, Apple has partnered with Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick AkamaiTechnologies (Nasdaq: AKAM  ) to deliver music and video. Buying the company outright, using some of its massive $8 billion cash hoard, could give the Mac maker an edge in pushing movies and TV shows through the pipe to paying customers. Or at least make it a formidable competitor to Google TV, should it come to pass.

Or we could all go bald with the incessant head-scratching such speculation creates. The bottom line is much simpler: TV is changing. Billions are up for grabs. And Madison Avenue and Hollywood are beginning to matter a whole lot less.

Further Rule Breaking Foolishness:

TiVo is aMotley Fool Stock Advisorpick. David Gardner's Stock Advisor picks are up more than 47% on average, while brother Tom's picks are up better than 77%. Both have walloped the market's 20% return over the same period.Get inon the action today by taking arisk-free 30-day trialto Stock Advisor. All you have to lose is the prospect of better returns.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers couldn't care less about the Mac Mini. He wants a new Intel-powered PowerBook. Can you help, Steve? Tim owns shares of Akamai. You can find out what else is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.

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