I hate to say it, but I think I’m fallin…

I hate to say it, but I think I’m falling out of love with TiVo. I don’t have any complaints about my current TiVo HD, which (mostly) works fine; but I’m beginning to doubt that my next DVR will be a TiVo, because I’m losing faith in the company.

Engadget has posted their review of the new TiVo Premiere, and while they have some good things to say, the review can best be summarized as “too little, too late.” While the new model has a nicely designed UI, it turns out that the overhaul is superficial: only the top-level menus have been redesigned. Worse than that, the UI is laggy (at least in the initial release), and the essential QWERTY remote isn’t included.

When you consider the fact that the new UI is pretty much the only thing the Premiere has going for it, this is quite disappointing. Meanwhile, I’ve still heard no firm information about how or when TiVo will address more important issues like compatibility with cable on-demand services.

I think this passage sums up perfectly the reality that I’ve been unwilling to consider:

TiVo has almost always defined itself as the shining alternative to garbage cable company DVRs, so much so that its customers willingly give up video on demand to use its more reliable and flexible recording interface. But TiVo’s also historically been the only real alternative — no other company has ever entered the mainstream DVR market with a great product at scale and at a competitive price, and that means TiVo’s never had to really compete against anything except its own extremely popular products. That’s a recipe for timid incremental change, which is exactly what the Premiere feels like — TiVo says it’s reinventing the DVR, but all it’s really done from a consumer perspective is add some nice new (slow) menus to the TiVo HD. The problem is that moving at such a snail’s pace has allowed the cable companies to catch up and consumers to move on; if cheap / free cableco DVRs were TiVo’s greatest existential threat of the past decade, the combination of cheap / free / good cableco DVRs and the online-only content customer might be the fatal blow of this one.

Brand loyalty is one thing, but as one commenter pointed out, TiVo is not a charity. When it comes time for me to consider my next DVR, I’m going to have to see what else is out there.

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