TiVo makes play for iPod, PSP, sans Mac

TiVo Inc.’s TiVoToGo service will soon allow users to convert video formatted for the video-capable Apple iPod and Sony’s PlayStation Portable.

TiVoToGo is for Windows PCs only. The company claims that it is “working hard to enable TiVoToGo features available on TiVo Desktop for Mac,” software that allows TiVo users to share content between their box and their computer.

TivoToGo enables users to transfer downloaded video content to PCs and to a small number of Windows Portable Media Center devices. TiVo plans to begin testing its iPod and PSP service in the next few weeks, with an eye toward making the feature available to all its subscribers early next year.

TiVo has pioneered the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) market. Its boxes enable users to record television shows onto a self-contained box that contains a hard disk drive. The product has revolutionized the way many consumers enjoy television at home, acting as a replacement for the VCR. TiVo has seen its own popularity wane as numerous competitors have emerged; the company’s TivoToGo service was one attempt to separate itself from the rest of the market.

While devices have existed for several years that allow users to download video and other content and watch it on the road, both the iPod and the PSP have emerged as strong contenders in 2005. Both devices are capable of playing back MPEG-4 video, and both can show video encoded using H.264 (Advanced Video Codec, or AVC).

Wary of running afoul of copyright law, TiVo plans to digitally “watermark” programs downloaded for portable transfer so that they can later be traced back to the originating account. Still, TiVo’s offering is likely to be a closely watched test case: it marks one of the first commercial services to let consumers transfer TV content to a portable device without paying for that specific content.

While TiVoToGo is currently free for subscribers, the company said customers who wish to use iPods and PSPs will need to buy additional software to enable the content transfer. TiVo didn’t disclose a price for that software, but the company said it will be “low-cost.” TiVo’s monthly subscription cost is $12.95; customers also need to purchase a DVR box.

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