TiVo's struggle for survival continues to generate headlines. Two weeks ago I reported that the company may reduced rebated hardware prices to nothing, concentrating on software for survival. This week's big announcement, as Darryl reports, is that TiVo is axing its $299 lifetime service plan in favor of shorter-term plans for one to three years. Darryl's also got the details on the new TiVo Mobile plan which will allow remote scheduling of DVR recordings from the Verizon Wireless network. And there's more: In June TiVo Kidzone will make the DVR more family-friendly by permitting parents to ix-nay programs either individually or under built-in advice from groups like the Parents Television Council. The company is targeting doctors with what it describes as "physician-oriented programs." Finally, the future may be brightening for TiVo—last year's fourth-quarter loss was 24 cents per share, down from 42 cents the previous year.
Samsung is the object of a Hollywood feeding frenzy. Five studios are suing the manufacturer for selling the DVD-HD841 DVD, DVD-Audio, and SACD player, though it was available for only a few months in 2004. Apparently this universal player was a little too universal. Like many players still sold, it allowed the regional coding feature to be easily hacked with a few remote keystrokes. Worse, from Hollywood's point of view, was its content-security weakness. Hackers found ways to defeat HDCP, allowing upconverted DVD content to be copied from the DVI output. Of course, the new Blu-ray and HD DVD formats have state-of-the-art security features, but they're being rushed onto the market before the ink has dried on the security-tech agreements. Looks like the studios are ready to pounce if any little accidents give pirates an advantage.
LG will bring out a player that handles both Blu-ray and HD DVD later this year, according to a leaked memo to dealers. That would be an interesting change in strategy from the company's former Blu-ray only policy. In fact, LG is dropping a previously announced Blu-ray player. It will also drop two LCoS models from its lineup, 71 and 62 inches, due to a chip shortage and what executives see as a waning microdisplay market. New 60- and 50-inch plasmas will be delayed and their current equivalents carried over. Finally, say hello to the world's largest LCD panel, a 100-inch prototype shown by LG.Philips at this week's CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany.
For a band that steadfastly denies its existence, Pink Floyd sure manages to keep the product coming. I've been spending time with Nick Mason's 2004 book Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, now updated to include a postscript about last year's miraculous reunion gig. Although he acknowledges having had a good editor, Mason really knows how to tell a story and does so with enormous wit and candor. Pink Floyd's rise from London's psychedelic underground to international megastardom would be great material for any writer—I couldn't put it down and ended up killing a whole weekend. A three-CD audio book read by the author is also available albeit hard to find. The 1994 concert video Pulse will be reissued in September as a double DVD extravaganza. The reunion is already available on the five-disc Live 8 DVD set. David Gilmour's 2002 In Concert DVD is extraordinarily beautiful. His third solo album On an Islandcame out yesterday and he's touring this year to support it. Roger Waters now has a whole opera, a Ira, to his credit. He has two albums in the works and is also touring this year.
Did you know that David Gilmour's third solo album is out on LP as well as CD? Amazon.co.uk is listing a vinyl version of On an Island for 15.99 British pounds—a little under 28 U.S. dollars—and it's even coming out today, same date as the CD release. The "voice and guitar of Pink Floyd," as he's billed on his upcoming tour, has been busy lately. Last year he reunited with three other former members of Pink Floyd in the G8 concert series, sold his house in London for 3.6 million pounds (6.3 million dollars), and gave the proceeds to an organization for the homeless, while putting finishing touches on the new album. Judging from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of his three-year-old In Concert DVD, Gilmour is still in his prime. Hey Dave, got a couple of extra tickets for the sold-out April dates at Radio City Music Hall? Well, I had to try. More on Pink Floyd tomorrow.
Why would anyone pay the price of an iPod nano for a pair of headphones? Better sound is one reason—Apple's earbuds are wretchedly tinny. Sennheiser provides another good reason with the PXC 300 headphones. These midsized cans have noise cancellation, resulting in both better sound and greater safety for those most precious and irreplacable audio components, your ears.
Cinematic cognoscenti who want to catch the latest indie films without driving to an art house are in luck—at least if they're Comcast subscribers. The cable giant has inked an agreement with IFC Entertainment to offer IFC in Theaters. IFC is a division of Cablevision-owned Rainbow Media. The arrangement will bring four to five independent titles per month, including two with same-date VOD and theatrical release. The price is $5.99 each and all titles will be in standard definition (though Comcast's non-IFC VOD operation does offer other titles in high-def). Coming attractions include:
Yesterday's new product announcements from Apple were sensible but anticlimactic. As expected, there are two new Intel-driven Mac minis, $599 with single processor and $799 with dual processor, that can share video, music, and photos over a wireless network. Then there's the iPod Hi-Fi ($349). Aside from the iPod dock, it looks a lot like a horizontal center speaker from a surround system, but with handles. Dual three-inch full-range drivers flank a five-inch woofer in a ported double-walled plastic shell. The remote-controllable device runs on six D cells or AC. With the power supply built into the enclosure, there's no pesky wall wart. So there you have it, or haven't it—Apple has not taken the home theater or the listening room by storm. Yet.
TiVo may soon lower its hardware pricing to every consumer's favorite number: zero. The news came when CEO Tom Rogers addressed a Reuters technology summit on Monday. The free hardware would begin as a test. In exchange, service plans may extend longer and cost more. Why this, why now? TiVo is a publicly traded company under constant pressure from Wall Street. Once its main competition was RePlayTV but now it's up against proprietary offerings from cable and satellite companies as well as mainstream manufacturers. An especially hard blow was DirecTV's announcement last year that it would de-emphasize TiVo in favor of its own product. Smooth-talking Rogers is determined to defend and increase his subscriber base of four million: "We feel that the notion that TiVo has hit some kind of distribution wall and is no longer a growth animal is not the case." Coincidentally, he is the former CEO of Primedia, publisher of Home Theater.