RealTime IT News

Developers Can 'TiVo It'

UPDATED: TiVo released new tools this week it said will let developers help the DVR provider think outside of the set top box. The company, whose name is becoming a verb in some pop-culture circles, posted an early-access software development kit (SDK) at the SourcForge.net Web site.

TiVo said its Java-based SDK is subject to the Common Public License to help protect TiVo's proprietary information. The development kit is expected to help broadcasters and developers include additional media-rich broadband applications outside of what is already available to TiVo subscribers, the company said.

Currently, TiVo subscribers can record television programs onto the set-top box, which has a built-in hard drive. The service allows some users to share music, photos and recorded television programs among devices, but only within a network. Future applications could include digital music and photo services, advanced program and movie guides, sports applications, local weather information, and multi-player social games and interactive questionnaires, the company said.

Arthur van Hoff (of Java and Marimba fame) who spearheaded the TiVo engineering team, told internetnews.com that TiVo had an earlier development model available for select partners, but this represents the first time TiVo has extended its technologies to a wide developer base.

He said the company hopes the SDK will also discourage the practice of breaking open its products for the purpose of getting access to the technology inside.

"People would try and get inside the machines and crack the software," van Hoff said. "So with the SDK, we are looking for third parties to create entertainment and information applications that extend the TiVo service."

Van Hoff said TiVo subscribers will soon be able to access new applications from their broadband-connected TiVo Series2 DVR, whether they're hosted by TiVo servers or running locally on their home PCs. A Macintosh version is in the works.

The developer kit release piggybacks TiVo's new service strategy codenamed Tahiti and its "TiVo To-Go" announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. The vision is to make the content more portable to a number of devices. While the service is originally slated for its own networks, TiVo said it would eventually like to make the service available over the general Internet.

As part of the launch of the early-access SDK, TiVo is also announcing a developers contest highlighting innovative ways of using the TiVo SDK. The contest will be decided at the Sun JavaOne event in San Francisco later this year.

TiVo could use a little development boost right about now. The company filed a statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday saying they only added between 200,000-275,000 TiVo-owned subscriptions during the 2004 holiday. The number is part of the 575,000 to 700,000 combined TiVo and DirecTV subscribers the company predicted back in November.

The company is also suffering from an exodus of upper management. Earlier this week TiVo president Marty Yudkovitz resigned as president citing personal reasons. Two weeks earlier, CEO Mike Ramsay said he would leave the company as soon as the company could find a successor.

A previous version of this article did not take into account the number of combined TiVo and DirecTV subscribers.