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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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July 07, 2004

TiVo vs. Media Center Edition vs. INDUCE Act (IICA) vs. Broadcast Flag

Posted by Ernest Miller

A couple of weeks ago Eric Harrison wrote a head-to-head comparison of Windows Media Center Edition and TiVo. (TiVo versus Media Center Edition PC's - finally!). TiVo won, partly because the original Windows machine had all sorts of defects, but mostly because TiVo is a more solid performer. Paul Robichaux's comparison goes into more depth about the MCE (Media Center Eye for the TiVo Guy).

Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg looks at Harrison's comparison and adds some thoughts of his own, as JR is working on a report on standalone DVRs (Tivo comparison to Windows Media Center):

First, the PC is more flexible. If I want to store and view my pictures, music and other video content, burn to DVD, copy to a portable media player and stream that content to other devices in my home, I can do that with the PC and not with the TiVo. The MCE EPG is also more flexible. Try and record the West Wing on TiVO, just the 7pm episodes shown on channel 44, not the other boradcasts. You can't do it. It's a snap on MCE. (why would you want to? to record a series according to airdates so you can watch the episodes in order). On the other hand, my TiVO never crashed, locked up, missed a scheduled record or any other annoying issue. Clearly the dedicated funcitonality makes for a more stable platform. Part of the MCE experience issue is that it's still a PC. You still need to exit to the shell to get some things done. You need to re-boot from time to time. If MCE is going to make inroads in the next year it needs to be able to shed the PC experience and live 24/7 as a consume electronics device.
Here are my thoughts. I already have a TiVo. I already have a PC. Most of the people who are considering buying a TiVo already have a PC as well. If the TiVo could simply talk to the PC, then they (and I) could get the benefits of consumer electronics reliability and the flexibility of a PC without having to buy a whole new, rather expensive PC.

So why don't DVRs offer this flexibility? They get sued into oblivion: EFF Archives: Newmark v. Turner Broadcasting System. Need I mention that the IICA (née INDUCE Act) will make bringing such company-resource-draining lawsuits easier? Or that, in a little less than a year, the government will burden such capability with mandatory DRM: Digital Television Liberation Front?

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcast Flag | Broadcatching/Podcasting | Copyright | Digital Rights Management | INDUCE Act


1. Mr. Neutron on July 7, 2004 07:57 PM writes...

Best of both worlds: DVD recorders provide the reliability of consumer electronics AND connectivity to your PC (through the discs themselves). Even better than that, the first DVD-burner-equipped TiVOs are starting to hit the market. Record for days and days, choose what you want to burn, take it over to the PC and make finished, edited DVDs.

I believe Pioneer already makes one of these. They don't yet seem that afraid of INDUCE. My prediction is that INDUCE won't harm anything tailored for analog TV. HDTV is another matter, though.

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2. Niz on July 7, 2004 08:38 PM writes...

Micahel Gartenberg is confusing the stability issue with his statement: "Clearly the dedicated funcitonality makes for a more stable platform".

The reason his Tivo is more stable than his PC is not anything to do with that. It is actually because Tivo is running Linux and his PC is running Windows. Windows is inherently unstable in comparison.

If he upgraded his PC to Linux it would be as stable as his Tivo. He'd also realise that Microsoft software is crap in comparison.

In fact many people turn their old PC's into dedicated PVR's by installing Linux and a free software application called Freevo.

Its just like having a Tivo without a monthly fee.

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3. Mr. Neutron on July 7, 2004 09:20 PM writes...

I would submit that the TiVo vs. PC stability question has less to do with the OS (although Linux is certainly more stable than XP) and more to do with TiVo's uniformity of hardware, and limited UI. Use XP as your OS for a completely locked-down platform in which all hardware is standard and only one application (custom-tailored to the platform) runs, and you'd be very unlikely to run into stability issues. You would have to pay the "Microsoft Tax," though. Linux is free.

The flip side of this is, take your PC with who-knows-what flaky hardware installed, and load some bloatware Linux distro on it, and have your PVR app sharing memory and disk space with your WM, web browser, e-mail, video-editing, and DVD-burning software, and see if it can come anywhere near the stability and reliability of a set-top PVR. I doubt it would.

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4. Mr. Proton on July 7, 2004 11:04 PM writes...

"Try and record the West Wing on TiVO, just the 7pm episodes shown on channel 44, not the other boradcasts. You can't do it. It's a snap on MCE."

It IS a snap on TIVO.

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