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It's "Like," The Pioneers Get the Arrows

By - December 10, 2003

I’m scanning my media news this morning and I see an item titled “Cablevision to Offer Tivo-Like Service.” Sigh. It’s so sad to watch a great idea, and a pretty good execution, fade right in front of your eyes, as pale imitators create “Tivo-like” services.

The problem with this, as I’ve ranted before (in a previous 2.0 column that I swear I am about two days from posting here), is that while TiVo puts its intelligence at the edge of the cable network, ostensibly under your control, the cable company boxes have opaque, client-server architectures, owned and controlled by the cable system. In other words, they decide what you can fast forward, record, cut and paste (well, you can’t do that anyway), etc. It’s a terrible, closed system, and because cable companies are monopolies, for the most part, there’s not much to be done about it. It’s Larry Lessig’s worst nightmare (and mine too).

And how might the cable companies handle their newly found control over your PVR? Well, here’s a hint from Tom Rutledge, president of cable operations for Cablevision: “We didn’t think it was a good idea (to add PVRs to the system) and didn’t want to do it,” Rutledge said. In other words, we are with the MPAA and the content industry on this one, and are only doing this because the market is asking for it. Endgame: If you get a cable PVR, expect the keys to be in someone else’s hands. My suggestion: go satellite and buy a TiVo. This year might be your last chance.

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3 thoughts on “It's "Like," The Pioneers Get the Arrows

  1. tim says:

    Luckily, Tivo is not rocket science; it’s some very basic hardware combined (brilliantly) with an electronic program guide. The EPG is out there (is there a better use for XML?). The hardware is everywhere. The remote, well, someone’s gonna make a good one very soon. (I use a Harmony remote – a simple activity-based, Web- and XML-powered remote with a program guide built right in. $80 refurbished.)

    Tivo does not have a monopoly on PVRs, they were simply able to do it first and do it well – a business anomoly, to be sure. But there are lots of others like Linux-powered MythTv on the way up.

    Somebody go tell Valenti that not only is the cat out of the bag, it just stole his Benz.

  2. dreww says:

    there’s something wrong with the link in the original post.

  3. I fixed the broken link, sorry about that…