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TiVo making a come back? Watch out Apple TV.

I personally have never owned a TiVo box, primarily because I knew there were a number of DVRs on the market that did not require a monthly subscription and I didn’t see the benefit to paying $12/month for something I thought I could get for a one time fee.

TiVo and Amazon have signed a deal recently that actually made me think twice about this policy however. As most people know, Amazon unveiled their Amazon Unbox program earlier this year to not much applause. After all iTunes has had video downloads for a while now, and it just didn’t seem to make sense to buy movies from Amazon when I already had iTunes. Add to that the fact that Amazon Unbox does not work on a mac as their video drm is PC Only and I didn’t give Amazon a second thought when it came to purchasing single episodes of TV shows or directly downloading movies. Similar to the reasons I previously mentioned why I didn’t give TiVo a second thought, why would I get something that would require it’s own monthly service when I could buy a cable box with DVR built in, or better yet, build a MythTV (though that requires lots of effort and is buggy).

But then TiVo and Amazon signed a deal that I believe is mutually smart for both companies. Amazon Unbox now can be linked with your TiVo account, which means that as you are browsing the web from anywhere, (even away from home) you can purchase a movie or episode on Amazon, or even Rent a movie (something you can’t do on iTunes) and then when you come home (or turn on your TV if you already were home) you’ll find that in your Now Playing List on your TiVo, the episode or movie is already there, ready for you to watch on your TV or (in our case) Projector.

I decided to take the plunge and find out. I purchased a TiVo and linked my TiVo account with my Amazon account, and now I’ve learned what I’ve been missing with Both services.

First, may I say TiVo is amazing! I never understood why people would ever dream of buying something with a $12.50/month service fee in order to enjoy something they can get for $5/extra a month with their cable or satellite provider, however I now stand corrected. TiVo is fantastic, their link with online features for example is something no other DVR seems to have (except for MythTV, which I previously explained is expensive). It’s fun to watch video Podcasts or listen to audio podcasts on my home theater system without doing complicated hookups of my computer to the system. It’s also nice when I’m at work and I realize I forgot to program the DVR to tape a program I’m interested in watching to be able to open my web browser and simply click on the program on TiVo.com, and know that my TiVo will record the program.

Next Amazon Unbox is pretty slick too, you can run it on computers, TiVo boxes, iPods, and other portable devices (including my own Palm Treo), next the really nice thing about Amazon Unbox, is while you can only have it on 2 computers or devices at the same time, you can have any number of computers and devices on your account (unlike iTunes’ 5 limit) and move programs from device to device easily. But the nicest thing about it, is if you delete your program, or reformat your computer, you can easily download the program again without a problem. The one thing I was worried about with the TiVo was that I’d have to delete programs I had purchased in order to have room for other programs, but I need not have worried. I purchased “Broken Bow” (episode 1 of Enterprise), watched it (in excellent quality for something downloaded, I couldn’t tell the difference between it and programs on Digital Cable), deleted it, and downloaded it again without a problem, and without having to go through any weird remote control interface, everthing was controlled from my web browser.

For the cons, I have already mentioned the big ones, but I’ll ennumerate them here. First with TiVo, of course there’s the $12.95/month monthly charge which kept me away from it for so long. Amazon’s biggest con is also shared by TiVo. TiVo has the TiVo to go service which allows you to download programs you’ve recorded with TiVo to your computer, palm, and other devices, but, like amazon unbox, this service does not work on Mac, at least not yet. Let’s hope that both companies release Mac versions of their software soon. I can however load it up just fine in Parallels, so it’s not that big of a deal. Amazon also has another disadvantage in that not all amazon unbox programs are available on TiVo. For example, while Enterprise is available, Smallville was available on unbox but not on TiVo. Also the TiVo connection is very new, it could just be that I had just gotten the TiVo, but the first 2 times I attempted to download my Amazon purchased content to the TiVo it didn’t work, and I had to try again. The second episode I purchased downloaded successfully on the first try, so as I said, it could have just been because the TiVo was new.

Sufficient to say I love my new TiVo, and I love Amazon Unbox. If you have a TiVo, try Amazon Unbox by clicking the banner above, if you don’t have a TiVo yet, you can get one at amazon.com as well.

Update: Amazon has updated Amazon Unbox so it is now possible to watch the videos on Macs as well. As part of this update, Amazon has renamed Amazon Unbox to Amazon Video-on-Demand.

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