If you don't love TiVo PVRs, then you've never used one. But, if you live in the UK, you've a pretty good excuse -- although TiVo launched in Blighty a while ago, it sank without a trace for reasons we've explained before. The good news is that Virgin is bringing it back to the UK as part of a revamp of its cable system. In further wizard tidings, TiVo in the US has just announced two new PVRs that threaten to shake everything up like a can of Coke in the hands of a youthful prankster.
The TiVo Premiere and Premiere XL will feature 320GB and 1TB storage capacities, and cost $300 (£200) and $500 (£335) respectively. In addition to the built-in storage, the machines will feature eSATA connections, allowing for future expansion. They'll also have an optional Wi-Fi dongle, to help users access a variety of Internet-based content, and a Qwerty remote control that makes text input much easier.
The two PVRs, which will launch next month, offer a brand-new Flash interface and some pretty advanced Internet-streaming functionality. Both will offer you the opportunity to watch a movie from your Netflix account, or stream content from Amazon, alongside handling traditional broadcast content. Searching for this material will be made even easier by the TiVo interface, which will guide you through the process of finding content that's similar to what you're watching.
Are we likely to see these machines in the UK? Sadly not. There are a couple of problems caused by differences in how the US and UK cable systems work. In the US, there's a system known as CableCard that allows consumers to legally decrypt premium cable and record signals in a protected manner to their TiVo PVR or even a Windows Media Centre PC.
In the UK, while Freeview HD recording would be a reasonably trivial matter, TiVo PVRs would also really need to offer the ability to interface with paid-for TV systems, like those offered by Virgin and Sky. Because Ofcom wastes all of its time flogging our digital spectrum to mobile-phone operators, and spends little time on regulation, there's no requirement for Sky or Virgin to allow third-party hardware to access their networks. Until Ofcom legislates on these matters, we're never going to be able to make the most of a system like TiVo anyway.