Doc Searls takes the typical intelligentsia swing at TV - "it's all crap" while explaining why TiVo hasn't caught on:
Part of the problem is this right here: the Net. It's much more interesting and informative, and even entertaining. TV can't compete. So I think the problem is with television itself. It's still mostly a drug, and getting a better way to administrate it doesn't change the nature of the substance. It just facilitates better abuse.
I have gotten very tired of this brand of slam - whether it comes at TV, at the net, at politics (etc). It's all the same thing - Sophisticated people love to tell you how crappy something is, and why they don't pay attention to it. It's a tiresome argument, and reveals far more about the person making it than about anything else.
To be sure, there have been changes in TV over the last few decades. It's simply no longer the case that one of the major networks can get the attention of a large plurality (or even a majority) of the viewing audience with a few shows. There's simply too much competition. Say you like science fiction - it used to be that you had to just sit back and take Star Trek, or whatever else the networks offered (or didn't). Now you have the SciFi channel. Is there always something on that's worth watching? No, but there's a decent number of interesting things for that fan base within a given week. It's the same thing for history and science - it used to be that all you had was Sunday morning fare and public TV. Now there's the History Channel, the various Discovery Channels, and the Weather Channel (which airs weather related infotainment when it's not covering the weather). Which explains why you don't have to wait up for the 11:00 news anymore - the Weather Channel is always there, as are the 24 hour news networks.
And that doesn't even get into the vast sea of movies and series that are available on cable. Or into classic movies on things like TCM (Turner Classic Movies). The point is, TV isn't "crap" - it's filled with a huge variety of things, some good, some bad, some excellent, some awful. That's where a PVR - TiVo, ReplayTV, etc - helps out a lot. You set up the things you are interested in (either specifically or by category), and then it does the heavy lifting of separating the wheat from the chaff for you. So why haven't these things taken off yet? Well, I'd guess that we are still in "early adopter" mode on these. It took VCR's awhile to really take (I can remember many people questioning their worth in the late 70's), and - until recently - they were only being offered by two very small companies (one of which, ReplayTV, has had numerous issues). That's about to change though. My local cable company is offering PVR's as part of its service now, as are other cable (and satellite) vendors. This is going to help mainstream the technology.
It's not just the smallness of the vendors that has prevented takeoff though. Setting up a PVR is no walk in the park for most people. Getting all of these pieces properly set up:
- The TV
- The Stereo equipment
- The VCR
And adding the PVR into the mix such that you can watch one thing while recording another is asking a lot. I suspect that having the cable company offer to come out and hook it up will help with penetration - lots and lots of people's eyes glaze over when they are confronted with the sea of cables that have to be connected - mine included. I've set up two ReplayTV's, to two different tv/stereo/vcr setups now - and adding the Replays also meant adding a network connection into the A/V mix. I think the biggest issue with PVR penetration is the same issue we face with PC's - people mostly want to buy it, plug it in, and have it just work. Outside the hobbyist community, twiddling with cables and connections is work, not entertainment, and getting things subtlely wrong is just too easy. The cable and satellite vendors are adding a service offering into this mix, which will help a lot.
Enough with the "it's all crap" thing already though - get over yourself....