TiVo Will Die
Thu Mar 18, 2004 5:32 AM ET
Jim Louderback - PC Magazine
It's always hard to write an obituary, especially when the subject is still alive. It's especially hard for me, because I love the little guy like a brother. But, alas, TiVo ( news -web sites ) will die.
I was one of the first reviewers to get my hands on an early TiVo box. I compared TiVo with ReplayTV ( news -web sites ), and although I really wanted to like ReplayTV, TiVo won my heart over.
It wasn't the cutesy mascot, although that helped. Rather, it was the drop-dead simplicity and ease of use that even the first version evinced. And to top everything off, TiVo came with the world's best remote control ever, even more astounding for such a fiendishly complex device. Shaped like a dog bone, it was simple to use, easy to understand, and a pleasure to hold.
The Wall Street Journal 's arbiter of tech—Walt Mossberg—still thinks ReplayTV was better, and we've argued over the brilliance of the remote. But the acid test, for me, was when I plopped TiVo down in front of my computer-averse wife. She took to it like a duck to water. So much, in fact, that I soon purchased another one just so I could watch what I wanted to see.
But TiVo today has a problem—and it's not what you think. Most folks point to TiVo's inability to convince consumers just how cool the product is and why they need one . Yes, it's hard to describe why a personal video recorder (PVR) is better than a VCR—until you use one. Give a TiVo to your friends for a month and you'll have to pry the remote out of their cold, dead hands. ReplayTV faces the same challenge, but that's not where the real threat lies.
Instead, a convergence of three separate trends is conspiring to kill off TiVo.
Of course, I should have seen this coming. Over the years I've observed that the more arrogant and less responsive a company gets, the more likely it's about to fail. Oddly, when the going gets tough, most companies don't do a gut check and rededicate themselves to service. Instead, they circle the wagons and go into a preventive defense—and search for someone to sue.
In the early years of TiVo, I'd get instant service. TiVo even gave me the name of a special ambassador—a strategy meant to ensure that the company got a fair hearing in the press, on the Web, and in other public forums. Today my inquiries go unanswered—or even worse, I never receive a promised response. Hold times on the help lines are interminable: It took me over half an hour last week to determine why the company had charged me $14. And I'll wager that Dish Network is not the first company or the last to be sued for IP rustling.
It's surely not the product designers' fault. They've built a great new category and an incredibly useful and usable product. But a few dumb decisions, coupled with intransigent corporate arrogance and overweening lawyers, have doomed TiVo to death. I'll surely miss the poor guy when he's gone.
Copyright 2004 Ziff Davis Inc. All Rights Reserved. Content originally published in Ziff Davis Media publications is the copyrighted property of Ziff Davis Media.
Copyright 2004 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
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