Tivo's new set-top box unites TV, Internet programming

The device makes it possible to search for programs or movies from the TV or Internet

Tivo on Tuesday took a step forward in marrying TV with the Web, introducing a new set-top box that will bring cable programming and streaming content from the Internet to TV screens.

Tivo's Premiere box is a cable box that can search and record content from TV broadcasts and the Internet. Tivo previously offered digital video recorders that recorded content from TV broadcasts.

There is a lot of content available on the Internet that users haven't brought to their TV sets, said Tivo's president and CEO Tom Rogers during a press event in New York. The goal behind the Premiere device was to unite programming options from both mediums, and the company has developed a software interface that makes surfing for programs easier, he said.

For example, when a user selects a movie, they will be provided with an option to view it from a cable provider or have it streamed from sites like Amazon.com or Netflix, Joyce said. The company has also tied up with CinemaNow and Blockbuster to stream movies.

Beyond movies, the software will also search for content like TV shows, podcasts and radio from multiple sources, Joyce said. Based on a show selection, links to related videos like outtakes on YouTube will also be provided. In the future, more links will be provided to sites like Amazon.com so viewers can buy merchandise related to shows or movies.

The new interface also provides quick access to content based on categories like actors, directors or seasons. Users can also browse through collections, like an Oscar collection, to quickly view relevant movies. A new feature provided with the box is the ability to display remaining storage on the device in real time, Joyce said.

Users will be able to import their music collection from a PC to the box. To make interaction with the Web easier, the company will later this year release a remote control with a slide-out keypad which will make typing easier.

A set-top box with 320GB of storage will be available for US$299, and will record up to 45 hours of high-definition programs. A box with 1TB of storage will be available for $499. The boxes are based on the Linux operating system, and the software interface is built on the Adobe Flash platform. The boxes will support Wi-Fi 802.11 g/n to pull content from broadband connections.

The company is taking orders for the boxes in the U.S. starting on Wednesday. Cable company RCN will be offering the boxes with its cable service in the U.S., while Virgin Media in the U.K. will offer the boxes.

Tivo is not the first company to try to marry the Internet with TV. The Boxee Box from D-Link, introduced earlier this year, is designed to search and bring TV shows and movies from the Internet to TV sets and PCs. Intel and Yahoo are also co-developing the Widget Channel, in which "widgets," or mini-applications, complement TV viewing with information from the Internet. The effort is backed by consumer electronics companies like Samsung and Toshiba.

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