With its new TiVo Premiere DVR, TiVo asks the rhetorical question: Would you like to replace your HD cable box/DVR, broadband Web box (a la Roku) and stereo-connected music player with a single box that lists content search results regardless of their location — broadcast, broadband, video-on-demand — all at one time?
Obviously the answer is yes, but there's a catch.
First, the TiVo Premiere, unveiled last night, is the Handy Housewife Helper of set-top boxes. There are two versions, the Premiere with a 320GB hard drive (45 hours of HD recording, $300) and the Premiere XL with 1TB (150 hours of HD recording, $500), each running TiVo's new widescreen interface and each offering an Ethernet internet connection to bring in Web content including Netflix and Amazon Video On Demand. When you search for shows, the results include content aggregated from all sources. In other words, if you search for, say Up!, it'll find and list where it is on broadcast channels, video-on-demand, Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, etc.
Premiere has a CableCard slot so you can replace your cable box (assuming you don't have to debase yourself too much to get your cable company to give you one), and TiVo will be offering a wireless 802.11N Wi-Fi adapter for $90 in June since you likely lack an Ethernet jack in your living room. Later this year, you'll be able to buy a remote with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard for faster typing.
TiVo improved on the company's legendary interface and artificial intelligence or whatever prestidigitation they use to help you find stuff you'd like even if you didn't know you liked it and didn't ask TiVo to find it for you. Premiere's interface is now completely widescreen, which means more info on a single screen and less drilling down for more detail. And having a terabyte of DVR space alleviates a lot of DVR guilt (having to decide what old unwatched shows to erase to make room for new shows you won't watch).
The caveat is cost. TiVo's monthly service fee (at least $13, depending on the plan you pick) is probably around the same as a cable company's box lease and DVR service fees. But you have to buy TiVo's box, and TiVo is unlikely to come to your house and swap it out on a whim.
One other minor caveat: Premiere uses HDMI 1.3, which means it likely won't play back upcoming 3D broadcasts in full HD. And too bad they didn't build in a Blu-ray player so I can get rid of another box.
If you decide TiVo's telepathic software, enhanced interface and Mr. Creosote recording capacity is well worth the price, you can order Premiere from TiVo's Web site as of this morning for delivery sometime in April.