DVR set-top boxes are following computers in the trend to ditch locally stored content. If the cloud is where it's at, then it's definitely not "at" big bulky boxes with their laboring hard drives and high energy consumption. Comcast certainly seems to get this.
In the past, I've railed plenty against the cable company and its policies, but I also have to be fair and give credit where it's due. The company's X2 DVR set-top box is a third smaller than its previous-gen X1, and it consumes half the power as well. It accomplishes this magnificent feat with a service that stashes digital video recordings in the cloud, so you can stream your recorded content to any device you own.
As a TiVo user, I'm jealous. Seriously. Incredibly. Jealous.
Why, you ask? Because have the same functionality to stream to my DVR'ed content to all my devices, I either have to rig a ridiculously complicated set-up or buy another $130 box (TiVo Stream) to sit next to the other (big) TiVo box cluttering up my living room. Really? Even in 2013, it isn't possible to stream from a single TiVo? This is unacceptable, and it's making me consider something I never thought I would — entrenching myself even further into the Comcast fold.
The X2 itself is not merely a box, but a platform, one that bests its predecessor. Not that the X1 is altogether shabby. Comcast is upgrading it to support web video, letting customers send content to their set-top boxes/TVs from their PC or mobiles. But the new service can do that and more. X2 users get a personalized home screen, which syncs on all devices for a cohesive experience, plus more recommendations, social features and a handy "resume" function, for starting a show on one device and picking up where it left off on another. And it's faster than the traditional cable box — by as much four times.
Sound familiar? It should. It's like a mash-up of the best features from TiVo, Netflix/Hulu, Sling and Apple's AirPlay, combining the "go-anywhere" benefits of streaming with the ease of passive viewing, all for the content you took the pains to schedule and record. The last time I was this excited about living room tech, I was mulling over DishTV's "Hopper with Sling" earlier this year. (That box, however, doesn't store in the cloud.)
It's all part of the "TV Everywhere" initiative, a movement to get cable and satellite providers to allow content on all devices. The idea is keep people from cutting their cords in favor of services like Netflix and Hulu. Well, consider me impressed. I still think cord-cutting makes a lot of sense for people on a budget, but TV Everywhere is a nice option for people who aren't willing to give up cable or satellite programming and don't mind paying for it.
In Comcast's case, the big thing working against these services is availability. X1 is only available in 12 markets, and there's no word yet where X2 will land, when it launches later this year.
So consider this a wake-up call, TiVo. I've suffered through those glitchy Netflix and Hulu apps, and the measly YouTube offerings because your TV/DVR experience was great. It really was… back in 2006. But now? For goodness' sake, get your act together. Even fuddy-duddy Comcast — which still refuses to let me use the HBO Go app on any TV-connected boxes — has begun to lap you now.