Hard News by Russell Brown


New Lounge Toy Update

It was press day for TiVo yesterday, ahead of the New Zealand TiVo launch next Friday, and the emphasis was on features beyond its role as a twin-tuner Freeview recorder. Which isn't surprising, because the breadth of features is really this thing's major selling point.

TiVo's proprietary EPG (electronic programme guide) format is the key to some of the box's signature features, including WishList, which lets you elect to automatically everything in a certain genre, or featuring a certain actor; and TiVo Suggestions, which learns your viewing preferences (apparently, two thirds of Australia viewers keep Suggestions switched on).

Presently missing from the EPG are the Sky-owned Prime TV, and Maori Television. It's hardly surprising that Sky doesn't want to play, but I'm struggling to think of a reason why Maori Television would refuse to be listed on the programme guide.

Until January, the box will cost $920 with a wi-fi adapter, 320GB hard drive and the Home Networking package, which is in the price range of standard Freeview DVRs. Home networking would seem to be a killer feature for viewers who've already gone non-linear at home. It'll let you play music, photographs and a range of video formats (but not, dammit, .mkv) from your computer via TiVo to your TV. It'll also let you compress and transfer TiVo recordings for viewing on PCs, phones and handheld devices.

To use Home Networking with a Mac, you apparently need the $220 Roxio Toast software, whose feature list includes the ability to "Transfer video from your Mac to your TiVo DVR to enjoy on your TV". This is somewhat inconvenient.

Hybrid TiVo CEO Robbee Minicola also showed me a feature that will appear first in New Zealand: TiVo Genie. It's a search and scheduling web application for TiVo that can also be accessed via iPhone or any other web or WAP capable mobile device. So you can order up a recording at home from your desk at work.

Although Telecom is the exclusive TiVo retailer, you can do all the above with any broadband connection. You'll need to be a Telecom customer to take advantage of the CASPA on-demand content. The least of that is probably the movies offering, which is drawn from the same release window as Sky Box Office. TV series, at $2.95 or $1.95 an episode (with the first three eps free) are more appealing. Music services will come via the Sony Music Australia-owned bandit.fm, which already sell MP3s online and will launch an all-you-can-eat music streaming service for $9.95 a month. (It was suggested to me that this would eliminate the need for party playlists and domestic DJs. Well, only if you're a complete and utter square.)

For all the fuss about Telecom exclusivity, I think TiVo still looks quite good without the Telecom-only on-demand content. It's in roughly the same price range as other Freeview DVRs, and it does quite a lot more. On the other hand, it's coming in to a market where nearly 800,000 subscribers already watch their television via Sky, and 128,000 of those are using the MySky DVR. I don't think anyone knows quite how it will fare, but it may be that its feature set will be sufficiently compelling that some households feel they need both MySky and TiVo.


Staying with gadgets: I have not yet got around to obtaining a hands-free mobile phone solution for my car, in advance of Sunday's law change, in part because I keep feeling there should be something better than what I've seen.

I use my iPhone all the time as a music player in the car, via a hokey old cassette adapter. The new law will let me continue to do that so long as the phone is mounted. I'm not even sure what that really means, but it strikes me that there should be an iPhone car stereo and hands-free-talk solution. I don't want to spend a fortune, but is there anything I'm missing?


Best of luck to Orcon today for the Play With Iggy recording. I think they've made this work, and I enjoyed watching the eight new band members' entries (plus this guy). Here's Iggy with the set-up in his Miami studio today.

The live stream of the collaborative distance recording starts here at 1pm. There's a dedicated Twitter stream here.


This week's Media7 show looked at children's television – which is going through trying times. It's available for viewing here.


Paul Litterick's essay for the Auckland Archicture Association's competition – about what went wrong with the Auckland CBD – is worth your while reading.

And, finally, I'm quite taken with this clip from a recent Maura O'Connell performance (hat tip: Nat Torkington):

And, finally, I'm the guest on Peter Urlich's 95bFM show from 10am tomorrow. I get to bring in two tracks to play: one of which will be a world exclusive preview of a recording by a Public Address blogger. (The other will be a great big house tune.)

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