My TiVo has broken out of its box. The brand name in TV recorders, TiVo's polished software is up and running on my Windows PC, adding the cheapest TiVo yet to my household.
Software maker Nero has rewritten TiVo to run on a computer. The new software makes it simple to find and record live TV on a computer. But it isn't simple to set up.
The software from Nero, which it prefers to call "LiquidTV," does much of what a standard TiVo device does. It can be more powerful and even easier to use than a TiVo box. The PC's keyboard and DVD burner, for example, make it easier to search for programs and burn them to a disk for long-term storage. LiquidTV can also export to portable devices through the PC's USB ports.
Until now, getting TiVo has meant buying a box from the company itself. Or subscribers to some cable and satellite can get TiVo that works with those services. But for the vast majority, entry into TiVo's service has meant spending at least $150 for one of the company's devices. Make that $300 if you wanted to record high-definition TV.
Now, anybody can download TiVo to run on their computer when it's available later this month. It also comes with a 30-day free trial of both the software and TiVo service. Then, it will cost $100 for the program and a year's worth of TiVo service. That's compared to $130 for a year's service on a TiVo-built recorder. For another $100, Nero will throw in a TV tuner and TiVo remote.
But TiVo on a PC means all the frustrations of a Windows computer. Set up, in particular, can be laborious. TiVo needs a TV tuner installed in the computer. That makes for a multistep process with multiple opportunities for something to go wrong. It's not something I'd recommend for most consumers.
Even techies might run into problems I've encountered, including audio that sometimes falls out of sync with the video. I'm still debugging my set up, which amounts to a complicated system of computer, TV tuner, a receiver for the TiVo remote, audio and video cards, and the TiVo software. I haven't even tried to get it working with a cable or satellite box.
You get the picture, though the picture I get isn't always pretty.
I can only hope that Nero gets the software and hardware preinstalled onto computers. TiVo offers a great competitor to Windows Media Center, which comes as a feature of many home PCs that also have TV tuners preinstalled and configured.
Challenges aside, I'm glad to see TiVo on a PC. I like TiVo's friendly interface and top-notch service. I like the added power that a Windows computer brings to the TiVo service. And I expect that I'll eventually get the system stable and reliable.
But I won't be pitching my TiVo box anytime soon.