TiVo Tunes In Photos

Has TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO  ) become cocky? Or just stupid?

On Monday, the digital video recording pioneer -- fresh from another small victory in its patent dispute with EchoStar (Nasdaq: DISH  ) -- announced a deal with photo-sharing sites Photobucket and Picasa, which are now part of News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , respectively. The result? Viewers will be able to flip through their photo albums on TV.

Here's how product marketing chief Jim Denney explained the rationale in TiVo's press release: "At TiVo we're focused on the entire entertainment experience, from movies to music, and in this case -- memories." (Emphasis added.)

Oh, I hope not, Jim.

TiVo doesn't have the tools to take on anyone other than its DVR rivals. Music? Let Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) and Wal-Mart take on iTunes. Photos? Let Shutterfly (Nasdaq: SFLY  ) go after Kodak (NYSE: EK  ) .

Maybe this deal costs investors nothing. Maybe your Aunt May longs for the old days when your Uncle Bob would fire up the projector and click his way through an hour-long slideshow. Me, I'm a nodder. Feed me a slideshow and I'll be snoozing in five minutes, maybe two, if all Bob has are pictures of Fluffy swiping at fake mice and catnip.

But it really doesn't matter if I think this is a boring feature. What matters is that, with this deal, TiVo is signaling its intent to be more than what it is -- to get into businesses that, frankly, it may have no business in.

Seriously, let's have a show of hands. How many of you know that you can stream music through your TiVo? Interesting. Now, how many of you actually do this? I thought so.

Deals like this one make sense if TiVo gets a fee for playing host to content. Think of Apple's arrangement with Starbucks. Were it possible to use iTunes to download the soundtrack of a movie you're watching via Amazon's Unbox, resulting in a small payment to TiVo, I'd be all for it. I bet most TiVo owners would be, too.

But that's because it would be an extension to TiVo's signature TV time warp. Nothing more, nothing less.

Maybe that's the lesson here. We love you just the way you are, TiVo. Why spend time and capital pretending to be something you aren't?

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