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TiVo’s Ramsay Outlines Enhanced Services

TiVo’s co-founder and chairman Mike Ramsay announced new enhanced services to his company’s digital video recorder platform, reflecting a firm commitment, he said, to a strategy that extends beyond DVR into an area that TiVo calls a Personal Entertainment Network.

“DVR is really just the beginning of an exciting technology cycle which will ultimately lead to the revolution of home entertainment,” Ramsay said during a press conference at CES, here.

The next phase of TiVo’s evolution, which Ramsay code named “Tahiti,” offers a platform that will enable users of TiVo Series2 devices to find and control content from any broadcast or broadband source. It will also give users the ability to transfer recorded content on a TiVo hard drive to other devices, such as laptop PCs, via a broadband connection and a home network.

The latter, called TiVoToGo, was recently activated for users of stand-alone Series2 DVRs. In addition to enabling users to download stored programs from their Series2 recorders to their PCs, the feature will allow them to burn those programs to recordable DVDs. For content protection, TiVo has developed a system that requires users to input a password before playback is possible on a PC or other external device.

The system uses existing wired or wireless in-home networks to easily facilitate the connection between devices.

Tahiti will also integrate into a single user interface broadcast and broadband content. The later element will involve delivery through a future download video service that TiVo will announce later.

The third leg of Tahiti involves the creation of a new-generation digital cable ready platform with high-definition capability. Slated for 2006, TiVo will market TiVo boxes with built-in CableCARD slots to receive premium analog and digital services from cable operators, without the need of a separate cable set-top box, Ramsay said.

Ramsay said TiVo’s business saw record expansion in 2004, both in the volume of its new product offerings from TiVo and its manufacturer partners and in the growth of its subscriber base. Ramsay said the company’s subscriber total is now approaching 3 million.

During 2004, DirecTV fully embraced TiVo, Ramsay said, achieving nearly 2 million subscribers. In particular, Ramsay said a high-definition DirecTV receivers with integrated high definition and standard definition TiVo service was “a phenomenal success.”

Ramsay dispelled any notions that the partnership between DirecTV and TiVo was about to end, following announcements that DirecTV would add to its lineup DVR products based on a platform developed by NDS, a sister company in the News Corp. organization.

“We are continuing product development with DirecTV and service enhancements as well,” Ramsay said. “We expect competition within DirecTV, probably from NDS and perhaps others, as DirecTV offers broader choices to its customers. All I can say is, bring ’em on. Two million subscribers to our service can’t be wrong.”

Ramsay said TiVo services will be further integrated into new products in 2005. He pointed to a 26-inch LCD TV with built-in 80-hour TiVo Series2 DVR that Humax announced at the show. It will carry a $2,499 suggested retail.