Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Small software update on the way for Virgin Media's TiVo

Remember that pilot software update I was on about? Well, it won't be a pilot for much longer, software update messages are now appearing in a TiVo Discovery Bar near you, informing you of a "small software update" which will be deployed at 3am between 31st January and 9th February for TiVo(s) left on overnight.

As previously reported (and much to the annoyance of several customers) this update was reported to disable third-party apps from communicating with your TiVo over the home network. It now appears that only apps which don't provide valid authentication to TiVo (which, sadly, includes TiVo Commander) won't work after the update.

As for the rest of the update, BenMcr at the Help & Support Forums reports that it will also resolve issues with the YouTube app (does this mean we can login to our YouTube account?), along with a fix for the 'Channel Not Authorised' issue when changing channels and/or recording.

Monday, 23 January 2012

A review of the apps on Virgin Media's TiVo

A while ago I bemoaned about the lack of movie streaming apps on Virgin Media's TiVo. Perhaps I should have covered the rest of the available apps in that previous post.

When I reviewed TiVo, I said:
Its this combo of Apps plus dedicated broadband connection which makes this PVR ooze with potential. Virgin are already talking to potential suppliers of video content, indeed, Virgin have declared that they have no fear bringing Apps for the likes of Lovefilm (who aren't shy about getting their content on as many devices as possible), Blockbuster and Spotify to TiVo. Virgin intend to have hundreds of TiVo Apps available within the next 12 months, so, watch this space and dream of the possibilities.
Indeed, Cindy Rose, Virgin Media’s director of digital entertainment, explained while talking to PaidContent:UK in December 2010 that:
We’re launching with a handful (of apps); within 12 months, we’ll have hundreds. We needed to start with the household names.

It’s just a question of doing the right deal, making sure our customers actually want it - power to the people; we’re a Virgin company. We’ve got an online forum we’re moderating to ask what they want.”

It would have to be the right deal commercially and add value. If Lovefilm came along and said ‘we’ve got something that adds to this’, we’d be the first ones to embrace them - we’re not precious about that.
I wouldn't imagine for an instant that TiVo would or should have hundreds of apps by now, 13 months later. But a quick look at the apps page for TiVo reveals just 13 apps in total. To be fair, 2 apps have been recently removed, these were promotional movie apps for Harry Potter and Twlight.

As for the rest of the apps:
  • YouTube
    The new version of this app fixed the issue of playlists and subscriptions not being recognised when you logged in. How? By removing that feature altogether, much to the disappointment of customers.
  • eBay
    I mentioned in my review that you couldn't login to your eBay account to place bids. The situation hasn't changed since then which continues to make this app next to useless.
  • BBC iPlayer
    Probably the best app on the platform at the moment, but its had its network issues. Plus, I have to say that the quality of streaming on the TiVo iPlayer app is inferior to the quality provided by the same app built into my Samsung TV.
  • VM Shorts
    One of many promotional apps seen on the platform. Speaking of which...
  • Sky Movies
  • Sky Sports
    Same again.
  • CNBC
    Great. If you have stocks and shares.
  • Twitter
    Would be so much better if it could be used with live TV, so that you could truly interact with live TV events such as sending feedback on the latest candidate who has just been fired on The Apprentice.
  • Weather, Celebrity and Photo Gallery apps.
    Unchanged, to be fair they did the job already.
  • Spotify
    New to the TiVO platform, can't really say much about this because it requires a subscription.
  • Millionaire
    Addictive to play. Which probably explains why you now need to pay to play it.
Lets hope that the number of apps increases and soon, because TiVo is in serious danger of being left behind in this area when compared to other devices - my Samsung TV has 19 apps just for watching VOD content, while games consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3 allow you to watch streamed movies from Lovefilm and Netflix, which isn't an option Virgin's TiVo provides.

Sure, Virgin have a deal with Flimflex (who are the primary providers of VoD Movie content for Virgin), but if Virgin are so worried about stepping on Flimflex's toes, then why encourage talks with the likes of Lovefilm to get Apped-Up on TiVo?

Still, the apps should continue to come, and hopefully they won't all be promotional apps. easeltv's core framework application has already been used for apps on TiVo and that framework will also be used in future apps. Also, we have a BBC Sports app on the way.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

New pilot software for Virgin Media TiVo prevents third-party apps from accessing TiVos

Network Access? To this? Access denied buddy!
Virgin are pilot testing a new software update for TiVo. While not as significant as the 15.2 update, the repercussions are already being felt - the new software (Version 15.2-01-2-C00) prevents third-party remote control software (like Tivo Commander and other apps listed in the Network Your TiVo page) from having network access to TiVo.

It also means that the chances of multi-room streaming have (for now) taken a step backwards since TiVos running the new software won't be able to see each other on the same home network.

Virgin have posted a response in the Help & Support Forums:

Hi I just wanted to confirm that we're piloting a small new code release for TiVo in a small number of areas at the moment.

In addition to a number of fixes after this software release a number of unsupported apps will cease to work as these apps create stability risks to our TV platform.

We know you're interested in using this sort of companion app so we're hard a work adding adding new features to our forthcoming TiVo Buddy app which we'll be launching later this year.
While this news would indicate that authorized Virgin software to access TiVo is coming soon (like the TiVo Buddy app), this news hasn't gone down well with the developers of third-party software and the users of that software.

Monday, 16 January 2012

News roundup for Virgin Media's TiVo; New look YouTube & Netflix apps shown at CES; Reminders

So what's been happening in Virgin-TiVo-Land? Well:
  • TiVo were at the CES show and showed off redesigned (and much improved) user interfaces for both the existing YouTube and Netflix apps on the stateside TiVo Premiere boxes were on display. There's no word yet if Virgin Media's TiVo will soon grace these new-look user interfaces, or a Netflix app for that matter.
  • Also shown at CES was a prototype of a TiVo networked transcoder box, this would support the real-time transcoding and streaming of any recorded content from a TiVo box to the TiVo iPad app (and in theory, to other devices such as Android tablets). As stated, this is a prototype and TiVo has yet to decide to finalize the design, or even decide if to put this box into production, let alone offer it to Cable operators such as Virgin Media.
  • The latest version of the VM TiVo Net Remote software now includes Reminder functionality.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Wanted: Movie streaming apps for Virgin Media's TiVo

The arrival of Netflix to the UK has me wondering (again) what's happening with the movie streaming apps on Virgin Media's TiVo.

So...where's the Netflix app? The one which is already available to TiVo Premiere users in the States?

Or come to think of it, the Lovefilm app?

Both companies have cheap streaming-only price plans available. Both companies allow access to their content on a wide variety of devices. There's other streaming services available from the likes of Blinkbox and I can access that on my Xbox 360, which now offers loads of streamed content after the last firmware update. I can even stream movie content from Lovefilm to my Sony Blu Ray player.

As blogged before, TiVo is in a unique position of allowing access to content via its own dedicated 10mb connection, which is free of STMing and other bandwidth caps - something which owners of other streaming devices would have to take into account. As such, streamed apps providing quality content could become the killer apps for TiVo.

Virgin Media's TiVo is in an ideal situation to deliver streamed content, especially films. So....why isn't it doing that?

What we've got so far instead are promotional film apps. App for new Harry Potter film? Check. App for new Twilight Film? Check. App for actual films.....erm, where are they? We know Virgin are willing to have these apps, they said so.....over a year ago.

The waiting continues. In the meantime, I'm off to watch some films on my laptop and worry about hitting my STM broadband limit because my TiVo is a movie-app free zone.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

A good week for Virgin Media's PVR partner: TiVo

Its been a good week for TiVo in the States. First, they won another patent settlement, this time against AT&T, this follows their earlier victory against Dish Network. More patent battles will follow, potentially against Microsoft who appear to have plans to give PVR functionality to the Xbox 360.

Then, TiVo rolled out an major software release to Premiere boxes, this update appears to include most of the improvements featured in 15.2 and earlier software releases for Virgin Media's TiVo:

That was followed by the release of the official TiVo app for Android devices, unfortunately it doesn't appear to be compatible with Virgin's TiVo.

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