MCE vs. TiVo??

Thomas Hawk pointed me to an interesting piece written by Alex Raiano at the TiVo Blog comparing MCE to TiVo.

First, thanks for blogging on TiVo (Alex specifically), but what the hell are you thinking with this?  MCE certainly has a DVR (at least in systems that ship with TV tuners), but it’s about much more.  You only do one thing!  While it can be argued you do it very well, the MCE value proposition is clearly about more than just the recording of TV. 

Perhaps the MS marketing department needs to be reminded that while TV is easy to grok, there are also Photos, Music, Videos (your own) and the Online Spotlight which can deliver quite a bit of additional content.  Only the MS bloggers seem to actively promote this.  I think actually even with 2 tuners inside MCE loses the battle on a purely DVR front since it really just comes down to money.

A $1,200 DVR is out of the question for most people.  I completely agree.  In fact while I could probably swing a $1000 DVR, I find it’s ridiculous to even consider when I can get a dual-tuner HDTV capable recorder for 10 bucks a month from my cable company. MCE does not even record HDTV.  OTA HDTV is not good enough… I need to record premium stations like HBO, not just NBC.

Thomas immediately brings up many of the advanced features power users enjoy from a richer platform like MCE which Tivo does not even try to deal with from a feature perspective.  Sure you can network your Tivo, and add additional features to it, but this is beyond the main base purpose and I believe well beyond the capabilities of most owners. 

MCE gets weaker as you expand out since while it is a jack of all trades, it really (and unfortunately) is a master of none.  While a fully functioning PC underneath the MCE interface is attractive
to some people, this hurts you.  A PC has issues like malware, viruses
and of course device drivers and conflicts

Tivo is probably best as an ingredient within another platform at this point – Apple Front Row perhaps? 

In the end other than the DVR, which is the purpose of TiVo and a single feature of MCE, is the only comparable detail.  If you look purely at that TiVo clearly wins on price and picture quality, but MCE has two tuners or more in some addvanced systems.

MCE actually makes the market more complex since while a DVR is in there, it’s about selling PCs.  Speaking of which, when you get to the bunddling issue as Alex addresses … many people are starting to buy MCE devices because the software is in there, though I also wonder how much use they get from the full set of capabilities.

I started this with a point, which I think I’ve lost… Comparing the two things is a slippery slope for both sides.  If I worked for MS on MCE, I would work pretty damn hard to simplify the experience so that there was a more mass appeal.  Telegraph the benefits on a higher level and let the advanced users (your existing market) take care of sharing the benefits with each other – which happens today through community sites and enthusiastic bloggers.  Tivo – get cracking on some bundling and adding multiple HD tuners… next year is getting closer, but how much will that cable-card capable box really cost?  If around 1000 bucks, MCE creeps into mind pretty significantly.

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