updated 07:35 pm EST, Tue March 2, 2010
TiVo gets new UI, 1080p, Pandora
TiVo fought back in digital media tonight by launching the Series4, its long-planned overhaul of its DVRs. The new models center on a heavily redesigned, Flash-based and HD native interface that now puts online video services like Amazon VOD, Blockbuster and Netflix on a higher level than before; content available through those will appear in the same searches that spotlight regular TV shows. More Internet deals are also coming that will include Internet radio from Pandora and a mix of news, photos and status updates through FrameChannel.
Less dramatic adjustments include a 30-second scan mode to find a particular moment quickly, a video window to keep watching content uninterrupted, and a capacity gauge to make it clearer when old shows need to be erased.
Hardware has also been given a significant overhaul to bring it into the modern era. While the dial-up modem has disappeared, a single CableCARD slot now supports multistreaming and can record a show in the background without needing a second card. A multi-core processor is equally new and is key to 1080p support as well as third-party apps anticipated in the future. Ethernet networking and eSATA external storage carry over from Series3.
Optional accessories have been given more attention this time around and include a new Bluetooth remote that hides a slide-out QWERTY keyboard to speed up searches. An 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter is also due, and those dependent on dial-up will have the option of a modem.
Series4 is initially divided into two models dictated largely by capacity. The $300 Premiere holds a 320GB drive large enough for about 45 hours of typical HDTV. A much more capacious $500 Premiere XL will hold 1.5TB, or 150 hours, and will be THX-certified to help it integrate into home theaters with similar badging. Both of these are due in early April; the 802.11n adapter will be available for $90 in May, while dial-up will be an online-only purchase for $30.
TiVo's launch signals a new commitment to Internet content in the wake of a changed market. While the company has been quick to add online video as it became available, its DVRs have gradually lost impact as online-only set-top boxes like the Apple TV and the Roku Internet Player, as well as cross-over Blu-ray players, have reduced much of the dependence on time-shifted recordings from cable and satellite. Altering its interface to give equal weight to online video helps keep its device in constant use instead of letting customers drift away.