November 11, 2004 4:00 AM PST
TiVo hacks flourish
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as long as the hacking didn't negatively impact TiVo's business, the company didn't plan to spend time addressing it.
The company has been working to beef up new service offerings to set its device and service apart from other digital video recording products. TiVo has a downloadable content service in the works with partner Netflix as well as a new interactive advertising tool.
As far as the hackers are concerned, TiVo's vision of the future--including its recently announced partnership with Netflix to provide movies on demand--just looks like yesterday's hack.
"TiVo's just once again copying utilities that we've been using for years," said MFS_FTP author Cassel, who has considered starting a business to fill in TiVo's gaps. "The Netflix thing isn't even news to us."
TiVo has a history of going against the tide, and that attitude has allowed it to outlive numerous predictions of its demise by critics who said it offered a feature easily copied by Microsoft and cable operators. While the company has survived, competitive pressures are only increasing as Microsoft continues to push PC-home entertainment convergence, and competition by other DVR providers press TiVo to compete on features.
But TiVo faces risks in developing new features, most importantly in angering large content companies, many of which have an investment in the company or are significant partners. New features such as TiVoToGo, which allows subscribers to transfer shows on a recorder to a home computer, have already drawn the ire of some.
That dynamic puts the hackers in the peculiar position of both fortifying TiVo customer loyalty in the way that Cuban described, and raising expectations for features that could exacerbate TiVo's existing tensions with Hollywood and other content providers.
Concern over copyright violations has already had a chilling effect on music recording devices that show even the potential for abuse. XM Radio, for example, pulled a recording device off the market amid concerns it could turn satellite radio streams into sources of illegally copied and shared music. Hackers have already restored a similar device to the market.
TiVo hacks are not exactly new--hackers have been extending TiVo practically since the product was first introduced.
But recent months have brought a wealth of interest and activity to the phenomenon. Enthusiasts congregate on TiVo hacking message boards. There are TiVo hacking FAQs, wikis, online how-tos warning of electrocution and voided warranties and specialty sites for Mac TiVo hacking.
For book-loving TiVo hackers, at least three volumes exist on the subject.
While TiVo has taken a hands-off approach to its hackers so far, the history of the digital music business suggests that could
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