Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Is Apple looking at buying a TiVo?

Reuters is reporting that Apple is looking to buy TiVo. One of the two major decifiencies that the Mac platform has is its lack of mature home theater PC software. (The other is more famous -- lack of games.) Sure, the Mac is the platform of choice for people creating digital media, but for those of us that want to play it, the platform lags behind Windows and Microsoft's very good Windows Media Center Edition.

Many see the Mac mini as Apple sticking it's big toe into the swimming pool of the HTPC market. And I am convinced that the next MacOS, Tiger, has a double-secret killer app that many people seem to be missing -- Quicktime 7. Quicktime 7 will usher in High Definition Video using the H.264 codec. This codec
was ratified by both the DVD Forum and the Blu-Ray Disc Association for inclusion in their next-generation high-definition DVD specifications. In other words, MacOS will have, at a core level, high definition video built-in.

Steve Jobs already declared 2005 the year of high definition video, had a Sony high-up speak at the MacWorld 2005 Keynote this January and released Final Cut Pro HD, Final Cut Express HD and importantly, iMovie HD. By letting you and me make high definition movies on the cheap, iMovie HD signals that "theres more where" the Mac mini came from. I have a feeling that Apple is gearing up to leap headlong into the world of high definition video and into our living rooms. Some have suggested that Apple's foray into the living room is related to a video store where you download high definition movies and other content for rental. That may be one part of Apple's entry into the home theater market. For me, however, any stab at living room video has to mean that Apple is working on an elegant DVR solution.

So....TiVo. TiVo has the best user experience of any of the major DVR players. TiVo is synonymous with DVR. So synonymous, in fact that "TiVo" is often used as a verb. TiVo's capitalized value is only $300 million, a drop in the bucket compared to Apple's more than $5.5 billion in cash on hand. TiVo's boxes are Linux computers and its software is a Linux application. Thus, porting the TiVo software to OS X, while non-trivial, should be very doable. Wham, bam thank-you ma'am -- instant DVR on the Mac. And not just that, but instantly the best, most highly recognizable and well known DVR on the Mac.

Of course this is a deal that doesn't just have upside. TiVo is struggling right now. Cable companies are deploying their own DVRs with less "pretty" but nearly as functional DVRs. And the cable companies' DVRs can record in high definition for about $10/month, while the high definition DirecTiVo box, the only TiVo that records in high definition, costs a cool G. And Apple may not want to get distracted with the DVR market; as the Reuters story points out:

Analysts said that Apple's focus on its immensely successful iPod digital music player would probably preclude it from going after money-losing TiVo, whose growth strategy has been questioned due to the rise of cheaper DVRs being deployed by cable TV providers.
But, I can dream, can't I? I can hope that Apple will gobble up TiVo and stuff a dual-tuner, CableCard-equipped DVR engine in the next Mac mini and allow me to record every show I want and watch them whenever I darn well please in beautiful 720p........don't wake me up, this is a great dream.

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