Friday, February 29, 2008

Where's My TV Server

About 10 years ago I had this idea. The idea was to create a home media server that captured media, both from online and from over the air, and served it to PCs and TVs throughout the house. We called it MediaKing.

The problem was the idea was too big, and perhaps before its time. What ended up happening is that a small piece of the idea, a new way to interact with music, became ClickRadio, which was indeed funded in 1999, and launched in 2000.

In any case, what recently struck me is, 10 years later, how what we wanted to do has still not come to pass, though various attempts have been made. Steve Perlman of WebTV fame, created a company called Moxi Digital, and a product called Moxi. Moxi is essentially a shared DVR. On a Moxi you can record TV shows off the main DVR, which can act as a server to other TV sets in the house.

Perlman ultimately ran into funding problems and sold it to Digeo, a Paul Allen company. Paul Allen is the co-founder of Microsoft and a Billionaire. Unfortunately, Paul Allen's portfolio seems to be where all good ideas go to die. And so it has seemed with Moxi.

Moxi was a good idea, but one big problem is that it was positioned as a product to be sold to cable companies like your regular old cable box, instead of positioning it as a consumer purchase the way TiVo did. The cable companies have apparently not been that interested. I only know of one major cable company to use Moxi, and that is Paul Allen' Charter Communications.

In any case the interesting thing is I still want this product. I'd love to have a central server that stored the TV shows I was interested in. I'd love to be able to back them up, and to add hard drives at will. I'd love to be able to control and access my video from my PC. To put stuff on it and to access it from anywhere on the network.

Ok, so now cue the TiVo fans running in to say "We can do all that!"

Well not really. First of all, I really would like to just have one recording device and then satellite devices the way that Moxi works. This is cheaper, and just as important, with a central server, I don't have to think about where different videos are because they are all in one place.

Secondly, TiVo feels like this walled garden. There are parts that are very well done. But somehow it feels like trying to kiss with a rubber mask on. TiVo is around 10 years old and the kind of features I am talking about have taken years to get done, and then been done in kinda wierd ways. The TiVo only recently became internet aware. And they have had a god awful time with TiVo to go. These are not 10 year problems. We have been doing great video streaming on PCs for at least five years.

In short, while TiVo doesnt quite suck , really it just *almost* sucks. And I think no one wants to criticize TiVo because they are kinda the underdogs. And we like underdogs and don't want them to fail. But really, they have nearly killed themselves with really anemic product development. Nothing from them seems fresh and exciting. They have no substantive internet presence. They seem like they are just kinda resigned to get old and sit on the third floor watching TV until it comes to time to meet their maker.

How sad it is. And it didn't have to be this way. But no matter. Really, I just want my TV Server. Can't anybody help me?

13 comments:

  1. But somehow it feels like trying to kiss with a rubber mask on

    That analogy is hilarious and also slightly disturbing ;-)

    Do you have any impressions of the Linux HTPC software solutions like LinuxMCE or MythTV? They're probably too DYI for the "mass consumer" angle you're taking in this post but maybe the potential is there for a device based on the software project?

    Cheers,
    A.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Slingbox? Connects to DVRs, apparently, though I don't own either a slingbox or a DVR and so I can't comment on how well this works.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting. Perhaps you could cobble something together with a slingbox and a MythTV. Still it is kind like putting it together with spit and glue. It's just fascinating that no one has really tried to do this yet.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hilarious analogies.
    I was also trying to finagle something like this back when we had more than 2 rooms (pre-NYC).

    What I found was that some systems that kind of do this. Although they have various feature sets and price points. Most are setup to deliver DVDs or stored video I am not sure I ever found something that could get the video off a cable/dish DVR. Sad.

    Sony has a CAV-CVS12ES HD
    http://www.electronichouse.com/topic/top/C93/
    is a good resource...for drooling.

    ReplyDelete
  7. http://www22.verizon.com/content/fiostv/dvr/dvr/dvr.htm

    ReplyDelete
  8. ... and to think, never missed my bunny ears when they were left in storage for 13 months. I'm all for wiring people up to the web, where interaction and productivity sometime even happen. But to spend time and money making it even easier to fill a schedule with non-interactive TV shows (which you might otherwise have been fortunate enough to miss, were it not possible)... it's unfortunate there are people who'd choose that innovation as their legacy.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Why not just put a TV tuner card in your PC and use something like the Netgear EVA8000? Alternatively, you can purchase most shows via AppleTV directly so, unless you are attached to the idea of linear programming, there are options.

    ReplyDelete
  10. actually I am quoting the **APPLE DOCUMENTATION*** he was smart enough to include in his article. Read much?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hank, Great article. But what's the way out? I'm on the side of DLNA compatible TV's. I reckon the problem with this is not the server but the client, as long as you need to connect your TV to a separate box to get the stream there will be poor support. Plus don't look for major names to make the break-thru, the content providers are against this and big CE will not antagonize.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Why not just put a TV tuner card in your PC and use something like the Netgear EVA8000? Alternatively, you can purchase most shows via AppleTV directly so Gucci, unless you are attached to the idea of linear programming, there are options.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nowadays, you could just sign up for Netflix or get Roku to have your movies on TV.

    audio brisbane

    ReplyDelete