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Will Apple Buy TiVo?

As long-time Web Watch readers know, we’ve been a huge fan and support of TiVo over the years.  We’re all set to pony up and buy the Tivo Premiere Elitewith 4 tuners and 2TB worth of recording space, once TiVo and the cable companies work out their On Demand issues.

But that was all before all the APPLE TV rumors started to crop up again this week.

And if these rumors about what 2012 will bring in terms of an Apple living room experience, we may need to reevaluate our decision to invest in another TiVo, no matter how much it pains us to consider this as an option.

So let’s dive into what the rumors are, as well as present our own wish list of what the ultimate APPLE TV experience should be, after the break.

Apple TV
Apple TV

First, let’s look at what facts we have:

  •  The current Apple TV product is similar to the Roku 2 XS Streaming Player in that it acts as a conduit to various online services.  While the Roku offers hundreds of different available channels and services, Apple TV currently only supports streaming from iTunes, Netflix, Flickr, YouTue, and a handful of other places.
  • Steve Jobs said that he “cracked the code” with an Apple-branded TV set.   

I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synched with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.

In October, an analyst wrote:  “While a solution for live TV combined with previously aired shows “recorded” in the cloud remains a significant hurdle, perhaps this code is precisely what Jobs believed he has “cracked”. ”

And now, the rumors:

  • Apple is working with “operator partners” (ie cable companies) to bring TV content to the Apple TV (source)
  • Apple will become its own “TV company”, charging for a la carte packages of network programming (source)
  • AppleTV will be its own settop box, supplementing existing cable-provided content with online material (source)

Or, Apple could do what Web Watch has been begging them to do for years:

  • Apple should buy TiVo

There are all sorts of reasons why this would be a good idea.   First, TiVo has been praised high and low for its easy-to-use interface and design aesthetics, two things that Apple has become known for.  To incorporate TiVo’s software to more of an Apple style wouldn’t take very much effort to achieve.

Secondly, TiVo software can run anywhere, technically.  There’s no reason to be tied to a specific TiVo-branded settop box.  Rewrite the TiVo code to run entirely from a TV’s firmware, and save DVR info to the Apple storage cloud or to a local iTunes-friendly PC or NAS system.  The former would provide a “save locally, watch anywhere” component that could tie into the iPad or other Apple device.

Thirdly, the TiVo DVR patent portfolio has proven to be quite lucrative and defendable.  If Apple doesn’t buy TiVo for the portfolio alone, Google may do it just for the heck of it.  For those who say that TiVo isn’t for sale, we encourage you to look at how much money Apple has in cash reserves.

So let’s say that Apple does buy TiVo and is able to incorporate the TiVo software into a TV or its own Apple/TiVo settop box.  Where is the TV content going to come from?

Well, just like Apple did with the music industry and iTunes, Apple can leverage directly to the content sources and get them to provide dedicated content streams directly to Apple for distribution across the Internet.  Apple will bypass the cable services completely, delivering live 1080p video across the Internet.

It will be a shot across the bow of all cable TV providers.  Sure, they’ll still be able to sell you Internet connectivity, but you won’t have to pay for the cable bill any longer.   As for bandwidth issues, Apple has figured out a way to compress the video packets in such a way as to minimize any significant increase in bandwidth usage. 

Yes, you’ll be able to watch as much TV as you want without the ISPs complaining about the increase in Internet usage.

And since Apple has partnered with the networks, AppleTV users will be able to pick-and-choose which channels they want and will pay for, and Apple will split the fees directly with the content providers.  NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC will all get their own personal cut – direct from the viewer.

Another option would be to go completely a la carte — but not via a channel menu.

Instead, the providers will send Apple every single program that they air and make them all available via iTunes instant streaming at pennies per show.  Want to watch this week’s episode of Big Bang Theory?  That will cost you $0.15.  An hour-long program?  That will cost you $0.25.  A live presentation, such as the Grammy awards or the Super Bowl?  $1.00, regardless of the length it runs.

Yes, Web Watch is proposing that Apple nickle-and-dime us for every TV show that we want to watch.  Keep the fees low enough, and we’ll happily pony up the cash — paying for shows that we want to see and not worrying about paying for shows that we don’t.

Everything becomes an on-demand program, and “scheduled viewing” becomes a thing of the past (unless it’s a live event, of course).  10 years from now, we will no longer know what “prime time TV” will be, and the networks will have an exact idea of how popular shows like NBC’s COMMUNITY really are and not worry about cancelling shows like BETTER OFF TED due to low ratings.  With this proposed setup, they’ll be able to post every episode and then make back some money anyway.

But what about commercials?  Before Apple, TV was free!   You’re right.  Why should we pay for shows when we could watch them with advertising?  Or maybe the fees come with the $$ that the consumer is paying to access each channel?

Well, who’s to say that commercials won’t still have a place in keeping those usage fees down?  

Netflix, Amazon Instant – those take care of the on-demand issues with the cable companies, and the a la carte menu means that Apple TV users will finally be able to pick and choose what content they really want to have and pay for.

As long as a month-long viewing binge still ends up being just a fraction of what current cable bills are, any Apple TV option that allows us to watch our favorite programs is a plus in our book.

Throw in any Apple/TiVo combination, and we’ll be one of the first on our block to be lined up to purchase one of these when it comes out.