July 18, 2008
You should have seen this one coming from a mile away. TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) has teamed up with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) to give TiVo users a friendly way to stream YouTube movies to that 60" plasma TV in the living room. The transformation of TiVo from a pure-play DVR specialist into an all-purpose gateway to digital entertainment continues.
TiVo's hardware is moving into the same media-hub territory where the Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Xbox 360 and Sony (NYSE: SNE ) PlayStation 3 currently do battle. YouTube is nothing new to any device with a Web browser, including my humble Nintendo (Pink Sheets: NTDOY.PK) Wii (with a $5 browser download). But a TiVo-made interface should be much simpler to use than the convoluted series of clicks my Wii demands.
TiVo's move is consistent both with its proven ability to make complex media maneuvers user-friendly, and with Google's desire to organize and make available all the information in the world for the widest audience possible. YouTube is a hot property, and having that option available right on the TiVo box should lead to many millions of hours of unplanned couch-potato action nationwide. And Google is still trying to figure out how to make real money from all those video watchers -- something TiVo might have a few ideas about.
My vision of the entertainment industry in 2015 or so is slowly becoming a reality, as the lines between online content and living-room electronics increasingly blur. I fully expect TiVo to stay on the bleeding edge of this drawn-out revolution, and to transform itself into a software maker and intellectual-property clearinghouse, leaving the tricky and low-margin hardware game to the likes of Motorola and Cisco's Scientific-Atlanta. Google's role really isn't all that different, either. There's room for several winners in this field -- but the biggest winner of all is sitting in your couch.