Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Planned Obsolescence

If you've been reading this blog for a long time, you may remember back when I purchased my TiVo HD in December, 2008.  Since the beginning I have had various issues with this device...or, rather, not really with the device, but with TiVo as a company.

A few months ago, TiVo released a new DVR called the TiVo Premere.  I wrote about this back in April and my fear (that I didn't write about) was that TiVo was going to fail to do any further updates to the TiVo HD that I owned.  That fear appears to be coming to reality.  Now I know that technology progresses quickly and all that stuff, but the features they are leaving off the TiVo HD are simply a ploy to force people to move to the new platform.  I don't know about all of you, but I don't just buy a $300 piece of equipment to throw it out in two years.  The proverbial knife-in-the-back from TiVo to me was the fact that they're now offering the Pandora (www.pandora.com) music service on TiVo, but only on the Premere.  I wrote Pandora about a year ago suggesting that they partner with TiVo.  Now, in order to use that, I need to buy a new TiVo.  Well, that just sucks.

What also sucks is that I have been unable to watch episodes of Is It A Good Idea To Microwave This? on YouTube for the second half of the past season on my TiVo.  There have been numerous problems with YouTube and the TiVo HD's ability to access certain programs.  Has TiVo made any effort to fix this?  Is there even any place for me to complain?  No.  In my opinion, this system, while serving me well as a DVR, has fallen short of the promises that TiVo made about it.  As a customer, I feel betrayed by TiVo.  In addition to paying for the DVR, I also pay a monthly service fee that totals about $130/year.  Even this isn't enough for TiVo, though, since they also have advertisements on the unit as well.  All this, and the best they can do is give a discount off the price of a new TiVo.  I don't want a new device -- I want the one I paid for to do what it was supposed to do.  I want the additional money I pay for the privilege of using their device and the revenue they get from throwing ads in my face to further the capabilities of the device I have.  If that's not possible because they screwed-up and didn't properly develop the unit I have, then instead of  making me pay $200 for a newer model, why not allow me to trade-in my current system, along with all the recorded programming moved from the old system to the new one, for (perhaps) a $50 fee?  Why not?  Because TiVo doesn't really give a damn about its customers.  I should have known that from the first experience I had with their customer support department, and the fact that they didn't even compensate me for my trouble.  What a crappy company.

I'm thinking that it's time to handle TiVo the same way I handled cable TV when it wasn't performing as it should.  It's time to cut my losses, stop paying TiVo for their pathetic service, and go in a different direction.

My friend Mary showed me her Roku box the other day, and it was actually pretty impressive.  Roku is not a DVR, it's a small Internet appliance that allows one to view various Internet-based programming (like the stuff from Revision3) and pay-for content like Netflix and Amazon On-Demand.  It doesn't cost anything monthly (aside from what you'd pay Netflix or Amazon), there are no advertisements in the device, it sells for under $100, and has an open development model that allows people to create services that can be viewed with it.  Is it perfect?  Well, no.  It has no disk storage capability, so you're limited to Internet streaming.  It does do what they say it does, and many people are fairly happy with it.  I think this device could probably take the place of those services TiVo promised but didn't deliver.

For DVR-type functionality...I think the best thing to do now  is to look at a media center version of Microsoft Windows (yes, you actually heard me consider this!) or try getting open source MythTV to work.  Either one can provide a usable DVR platform for over-the-air broadcasts.

I'm about to go on vacation in a couple of weeks.  When I get back, I'm going to make my decision.  At the moment, though, I have reached the limits of my patience with TiVo.  I can't see giving them another cent of my money if they can't deliver on the TiVo HD platform what they said they would deliver.  I don't have any confidence that will change in a month's time, and so prepare for the next change in my home entertainment plans.  It's going to be a wild ride!

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