Tivo, T-Box, Xbox, Foxtel: TV options are on the up

The media went into a frenzy this week over two announcements relating to Australian television and the ability to record it. Tivo’s corporate backer is rumoured to be pulling the plug and Telstra’s T-Box will be able to receive Foxtel in the coming months, just like an Xbox 360 can now. Add to that new IP-TV technologies and services and the future of TV looks pretty good.

Any unfortunate demise of Tivo in Australia can’t be put down to lack of interest or demand.

I remember as far back as 10 years ago a homebrew Tivo community existed in Australia. PVR enthusiasts imported Tivos from the US and got them to work with our broadcasts.

See the www.oztivo.net site for more details.

Since Tivo was launched commercially, we’ve seen a spate of additional PVR services enter the market.

In the ISP space two of the biggest, Telstra BigPond and iiNet have launched their T-Box and FetchTV PVR services, respectively.

Of course, there is also a plethora of generic PVRs available at your local electronics retailer which can be used to record digital TV broadcasts.

In 10 years the standalone PVR will be as obsolete as a standalone digital TV set top box

About five years ago I built my own PVR using a standard Linux-based PC, a TV tuner card and MythTV.

It was an experience in how to get different signals together on the same box I can testify.

Nowadays the integration work is being done by the vendors and that’s ushering in a new wave of options for consumers.

The next level: TV in the cloud

At TechWorld we’ve followed the roll out of digital TV and the uptake of satellite services to fill the gaps once blanketed by analog signals.

We can only assume said blackspots won’t be covered by the NBN either. If they were, the roll out of digital TV is just a little bit too early as the NBN could easily pipe IP-TV directly into people’s living rooms.

What’s interesting about the availability of Foxtel on the Xbox 360 and the T-Box is that it arrived there over IP and in software, not hardware.

People can use an existing device and just subscribe to an IP-TV service, without the need for an additional set-top box or, dare I say, a Foxtel sales person.

Foxtel without the set-top box is essentially a Cloud content delivery mechanism – IP-TV delivered to a computer – that has huge implications for how we will watch TV.

Incidentally, not to be outdone, Sony has released a PVR attachment for its PlayStation 3 console, which also has integrated IP-TV in the form of iView and Plus 7. We can only wait and see of Foxtel will come to the PS3 as well.

In 10 years the standalone PVR will be as obsolete as a standalone digital TV set top box.

People will have the option of using a standard computer, or “home server”, an entertainment device like a game console, or a smarter television.

Smarter television? I won’t coin another annoying term like smartphone by saying the era of “smarttelevisions” is coming, but what is worth mentioning is how the plain old stateless TV set is ripe for a revolution in its own right.

The television manufacturers, looking to add value to their commodity products, will invariably add more PVR features and software for integrating with Cloud services.

Check out the Melbourne-based www.mytvr.com.au for a good example of where we are headed. It doesn’t integrate with a standard TV yet, but that’s because today’s TVs are too dumb to play back the recorded video.

However, a TV with a hard drive and Ethernet port (much like an all-in-one) running Android would be perfect.

So far the only large-scale attempt at a Cloud TV service is Google TV in the US and that, like many first-generation services, has been met with mixed responses.

Still, vendors like Samsung are moving to Internet television and it’s only a matter of time before such options become standard.

In addition to commercial IP-TV services, IP-enabled devices and TVs also offer the option of surfing the Web for open video services like YouTube.

If the future of TV is up, and it’s in the Cloud. Cloud services will take over what the Tivo pioneered. Long live personal video recording!

Follow Rodney Gedda on Twitter: @rodneygedda

Follow TechWorld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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