TiVo speaks on Mac Desktop software, iPod support

On Monday Digital Video Recorder (DVR) pioneer TiVo Inc. announced plans to support the video iPod and the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) in an upcoming software update to its TiVoToGo solution. MacCentral spoke with Jim Denney, TiVo’s vice president of product marketing, to find out more.

TiVo’s DVRs enable television viewers to record their favorite programs to a hard disk-based recorder. They can search for their favorite programs, actors, directors and more using comprehensive search functions, fast forward through advertisements, and even set up the box to record a “Season Pass”-worth of shows.

Whither the Mac version

TiVoToGo enables users of some Microsoft Windows-equipped PCs and Windows-compatible portable media players to copy their shows onto their computers and portable devices. The company has promised a Macintosh version, which Denney indicated they’re still working on.

“We hope to have something in mid-2006,” he told MacCentral .

When pressed for more details, Denney added, “I would prefer to underpromise and overdeliver in this case. We haven’t set a date but we’re actively working on it.”

TiVoToGo

TiVoToGo is the foundation upon which TiVo’s developers are providing a new service that enables users to export video to a format that can be read by both the new video-capable iPod and the PSP. The new transfer support is being introduced on a test basis in a beta version TiVo plans to release to a limited group of subscribers in the coming weeks. If all goes well, the company plans to make it available to all users of its Series2 boxes in the first quarter of 2006, for a nominal (and as yet, unspecified) fee.

Why both the iPod and the PSP?

“Both are popular products with our customers, and there’s enough technical similarity to make sense to support them,” Denney said.

Both the iPod and the PSP can play back H.264-encoded video, and that’s the format that TiVo is using for this new capability. One gigabyte of content formatted for the use of either device should include about 2.5 hours of video, by TiVo’s estimates.

Transferring to the iPod, PSP

Denney explained that there are two separate issues that TiVo is focusing on for this forthcoming beta test.

“One is the support for the PSP and the iPod and the other is this auto transfer function,” he explained. TiVo wants to make it as easy as possible for users to get video to their iPod and PSP.

Right now, there are numerous shareware, freeware and commercial utilities for both Mac OS X and Windows that aid users in the conversion and transfer of video to the iPod or the PSP, but TiVo wants to make the process seamless — preferably to simply plug in a device, copy the files over, and watch them at your leisure.

“Our goal is to make it as simple as possible,” said Denney.

One feature TiVo definitely plans to support is the overnight transfer of Season Pass recordings. Since the conversion and transfer of video can take a little time, TiVo’s idea is to synchronize the exchange of content with a portable device overnight.

The files written to the device are embedded with an identifier that Denney said discourage their use for other than personal playback.

The new export capability only works with Standard Definition (SD) video, according to Denney.

Apple also sells music videos, television shows and short movies ready-to-go from its iTunes Music Store, for US$1.99 each. TiVo’s new service is entirely independent of Apple, said the company — it’s not indicative of any distribution agreement with the iTunes Music Store.

Mac Desktop software

The company also offers a TiVo Desktop software application for Mac and Windows. The software enables users to publish and share digital music, photos, and TiVo recordings between their computers and a networked TiVo Series2 DVR.

Both Mac and Windows versions of TiVo Desktop software are available, though Mac-using TiVo subscribers have noted that the Mac software has languished. In fact, the currently available version — TiVo Desktop for Mac v1.9.1 — is not compatible with Mac OS X v10.4 “Tiger.”

The Macintosh development of the TiVoToGo product isn’t being held up because of that issue, said Denney. In fact, he said that a fix for the TiVo Desktop for Mac software should be released “imminently.”

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