TiVo connects to PC, Internet

In a move aimed at establishing its digital video recorder as the entertainment hub of the home, TiVo said Wednesday that home networking features will now come standard with its devices and announced that users can now schedule recordings online.

Additionally, TiVo said it is working to allow movies and music from the Internet to be downloaded to TiVo digital video recorders. The service would give users another option to get movies on their TV sets, aside from pay-per-view offered by the cable or satellite provider and the neighborhood video store. No date has been set for the download services, a TiVo spokeswoman said.

TiVo's home networking features previously were only available with the additional purchase of the TiVo Home Media Option for US$99. The option allows TiVo owners in the US to use their TV to view photos and their home stereo to play music stored on their computers by connecting their TiVo device to a home network. Those home networking features are now part of the standard US$12.95 per month TiVo subscription fee, the company said.

The TiVo home networking feature works on wireless and wired home networks by connecting a network adapter to the USB (Universal Serial Bus) port on the TiVo Series2 device, according to the TiVo Web site. Virtually all TiVo customers have Series2 boxes, the spokeswoman said.

To get existing customers to buy more digital video recorders, TiVo has cut the subscription price on up to five additional TiVo boxes on a single account to US$6.95 per box per month. The company also announced multi-room viewing capability, which allows users to transfer shows recorded on one TiVo box to another in the same household.

TiVo's announcements fit with a push by many other vendors to make digital content stored on a PC and available on the Internet accessible on traditional consumer electronics devices such as the TV and home stereo. Sony and Koninklijke Philips Electronics have announced similar products, where consumer electronics devices form the home entertainment hub.

Traditional PC vendors are trying to accomplish the same PC and consumer electronics convergence goal, but with the PC as the center. Later this year, Microsoft Corp. and hardware partners including Dell Inc. and Gateway Inc. are set to introduce Windows Media Center Extender devices that wirelessly link computers running Windows XP Media Center Edition to televisions.

The Windows Media Center extender technology will allow users to access photos, videos and Internet services on their TV using a remote control without the need to physically connect the TV to the PC or have it in the same room.

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Joris Evers

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