In tv

The TiVo Dilemma

Posted by: on Aug 20, 2004 | 2 Comments

As TiVo stock continues to tumble, a lot is being said about the future of the company amongst an onslaught of cheap cable- and sat-based offerings. Will it boutique itself ala Apple and become an obscure fascination of elite geekboys, or will it take the software approach with the acquisition of Strangeberry and its’ buffet o’ patents? The latter seems to be the current approach, smart considering the notoriously harsh and painfully thin margins of the hardware business.
But the reality on the ground today is summed up beautifully in BoingBoing:

I can’t begin to say how much I despise the Explorer 8000 digital video recorder made by Scientific-Atlanta. That’s the system Time-Warner gave us when my wife signed us up for cable service a few weeks ago. I was out of town on the day they were scheduled to install it, so I told my wife to make sure the DVR was real TiVo, because I’d played with a TiVo belonging to my friend, and thought it was just about perfect. The service tech came and told her it was real TiVo. When I got back and saw that the ugly box didn’t have a happy bipedal TV set logo on it, I was disappointed, but willing to give it a try. The first thing I noticed was the crappy user interface…
This last flaw hit home when the machine suddenly stopped recording shows. I tried everything I could to get it to work, including rebooting the system and calling Time Warner Cable customer service. They told me that they’d have to replace the unit, which would take five days.
Five days later a service technician came with a new box. I asked him if this problem was common, because Google returns a lot of pages from people who think the Explorer 8000 is a piece of junk. He said the system is fine as long as you didn’t store too many shows on it. If you fill up the hard drive, the system freezes up, and there’s no way a user can undo it. But how do you know when the disk is close to being full if there’s no gage to tell you? The service tech’s answer: “don’t keep very many shows on the hard drive.” That pretty much defeats the purpose of a DVR, doesn’t it?
He also warned me not to put anything on top of it, as it was notorious for overheating and seizing up. I told him I was considering TiVo, but he insisted the Explorer 8000 was better than TiVo. How so, I asked? “We will give you a new one if it breaks,” he said.
Yesterday I was at Best Buy, and I noticed that 40-hour TiVos were on sale for $50 after rebate. I bought one and set it up. What a difference! If TiVo were a beverage, it’d be a tall glass of Jamaican ginger beer with chipped ice and a lime wedge, while the Explorer 800 would be a paper cup of warm fake lemonade stirred with the finger of a nose-picking six-year-old.
I can’t wait to get the Explorer 8000 out of my house. Why did Time Warner make a deal with this company?