Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Tivo Trojan Horse

The key to business success in the 21st Century is flexibility.

For a while, Tivo looked like it was going to be victim of the changing business environment. Just as the word "Tivo" was becoming generic, a la Kleenex and Xerox, the business was in danger of becoming extinct. Users seemed to love the functionality, but competitors figured out that Tivo was nothing more than a video-enabled hard drive, a model that was easily copied.

Cable MSOs, and particularly Tivo's "partner" DirectTV, realized that they could build DVRs - the new generic term - into their set-top boxes. Tivo looked like it was going to go the way of its former direct competitor Replay, which sank without a trace.

Now Tivo is trying to deliver proprietary content and functionality - downloading programming and becoming a bridge between the internet and the TV. If they can do that successfully, Tivo becomes more than just another box sitting in your TV console; it becomes THE BOX through which you receive all your non-linear programming. Of course, it still has to contend with the other boxes - Akimbo, Moviebeam, etc. - that are trying to make the same leap.

This battle is going to get ugly, and all I can say for sure is that not everyone will survive.