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Microsoft

Microsoft's Family Room Change 330

michael_cain writes "Siliconvalley.com is reporting that Microsoft is shutting down its Ultimate TV project. The service itself will continue to be offered. The set top box hardware developers are moving to the XBox organization. With the sales of the XBox already larger than either Ultimate TV or its predecessor, WebTV, it looks like Microsoft is adopting the game console as their method-of-choice for getting a platform to run their software into the family room." I found the decision to more or less put UltimateTV on life support and discontinue active work on it interesting - that leaves TiVo and ReplayTV as the main standing competitors.
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Microsoft's Family Room Change

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  • Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NiftyNews ( 537829 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:18PM (#2882689) Homepage
    Proof positive that a company who is kind to its customers, values their feedback, and is based on a user-friendly GUI can actually succeed.

    Chalk one up for TiVo's continued lifespan.
    • Re:Wow (Score:2, Interesting)

      by gkbarr ( 124078 )
      Actually, it looks like M$ is trying to avoid the legal battle that is going down over "fair use" when it comes to recording (and ultimately editing) live TV. Given their track-record in lawsuits, this is surprising.

      -G

  • What about Moxi (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    And Moxi Media Center [moxi.com]...
    • Re:What about Moxi (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ledge ( 24267 )
      Moxi still seems like a "too good to be true" kind of thing. It supports everything under the rainbow and is slated to cost less than a full featured DirecTiVo. Until that puppy is available at one of the big chains, I'm not convinced.
  • by jordan_a ( 139457 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:20PM (#2882709)
    With XBox in more living rooms them Tivo, this means that Microsoft has a huge platform to launch from if they extend UltimateTV to the XBox.
    • methinks this will not be an instant success though, at least in the short term.

      Let's say MS puts our UltimateTV for Xbox, or whatever it will be called. It will still require some sort of addon hardware to get PVR functionality out of the Xbox, unless they have thought about that already and the Xbox can be software upgraded to make it a PVR. (Anyone know for sure?) At the minimum, I would guess at least another/bigger hardrive.

      Either way, hardware expansion for consoles have never proved succesful (that Nintendo Robot, SegaCD, Sega32X), so I would guess they are merging UTV and Xbox into one uber box instead of extending the Xbox. Either way, Joe Consumer needs to buy a new box.
      • by cryptochrome ( 303529 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:44PM (#2882885) Journal
        The hardware developers are moving to the Xbox organization. This doesn't mean they are going to put some addon onto the Xbox. It almost certainly means this functionality will be lumped into the Xbox's successor, which is fully in line with everything we've heard about that box so far. They may have had trouble selling ultimateTV on it's own, but by putting PVR in an Xbox it will have no trouble at all becoming widespread, and offer some real competition to MS's competitors in the games and PVR arenas. And real opportunities for their investors and allies in the media.
        • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:52PM (#2882938)
          "It almost certainly means this functionality will be lumped into the Xbox's successor, which is fully in line with everything we've heard about that box so far."

          Then they have a problem. XBox has only been on the market now for what, two months? If Xbox 2 hits stores less than a year after the release of the original, then it's going to fall flat on its face. One of the big reasons many have stayed away from Xbox is that they don't want to get on the vicious cycle of upgrades Microsoft is famous for, and releasing a new system less than a year after the old would just justify those fears. At the very least, they'll have many Xbox owners who see the new Xbox 2 come out, and decide to not spend their money and wait for Xbox 4 or 5 to come out before upgrading.

          It's too early in the game for Microsoft to even think about competing with themselves in the console market. If they think the same rules for running their OS monopoly can be applied to today's three-way power struggle...
          • Not everyone has bought an Xbox yet. If they retain the same game architecture/make it backwards-compatible, but add the new functionality and modify the interface some, they should have no problem attracting new users. I predict we could see it by Christmas (Game Box Special Edition?). IIRC, the hottest selling game box last christmas was the PS2, which had already been around for a year.
          • If Microsoft is smart (and regardless of what you may think of their policies or products, they are smart) they will keep the architecture the same across all boxes. Put in better/faster/more renderers each year, a bigger harddrive each year, but keep everything standardized. Then you can upgrade, and all your old games keep working.

            Just like the real pc world. The computer I had 5 computers ago will play quake3, counterstrike, and everything else that comes out. It may play like crap, but it plays it.

            And my current computer plays doom!

            Microsoft knows the backwards/forwards compatability thing. In fact, they sometimes keep compatability at the expense of feature improvement (himem386.sys anyone?)
          • Don't think Xbox 2 - think Ultimate Xbox, Xbox Advanced, or Xbox Plus. Think Xbox meets Moxi, maybe with a side of WebTV thrown in for good measure. The Xbox remains available as a dedicated game machine, but the Ultimate Xbox lets you buy a game machine, PVR, cable tuner, CD/DVD player, media library, and web terminal all in one box.

            "Throw away that jumble of wires, put your old-fashioned component entertainment boxes up on eBay, stop writing monthly checks to AOL, cable, DirecTV, and Tivo - with Ultimate Xbox featuring MSN (DMCA/SSSCA-Approved), you plug in just one box, and for only $99.95 per month, you too can have the Ultimate in Digital Entertainment!!!"

            My question is, will Sony beat them to it? They don't own an Internet service (as far as I know), but they have everything else, and a lot more consumer electronics experience than Microsoft.

          • You forget one thing-- because of the platforms that the XBox is based on, it gets backwards compatibility for free. Due to the interdependancy of content and hardware, MS can't put out new XBox releases as fast as they can for their applications, but free backwards compatibility will allow them to release new hardware versions faster than other console makers can.
      • Let's say MS puts our UltimateTV for Xbox, or whatever it will be called. It will still require some sort of addon hardware to get PVR functionality out of the Xbox,

        It is currently titled "HomeStation", and it's a completely new piece of hardware. It's been buzzed about for a few months now, and MS employees have been quoted actually using the term "HomeStation" in reference to the concept, although it has yet to be confirmed that it will actually be produced (this move is confirmation enough for me).

        This is an interesting move for a few reasons. First, I think the actual impetus to make the final decision was the reception that the Moxi got at CES. Of course, the Moxi has yet to be sales tested, so it's an interesting situation. TiVO is confusing enough - over Christmas I heard many inane and downright incorrect descriptions of what TiVO (PVR = TiVO in most people's minds) is. And these were generally intelligent people in the 40s who can use a wordprocessor and a VCR without any problems.

        The second side of things is the video game market. In America, consoles generally have to be absolutely identical. If the HomeStation adds more features, it's unlikely they will be programmed to. If it offers better graphics or anything like that, you're running into a seriously dangerous situation of having games play differently on different systems - which is something the console world does not have to deal with. The worst case would be a games with compatability problems. That spells the end of X-Box, IMO - Consoles are slick because you don't have to worry about such things.

        That's not even beginning to bring up the problem if they actually *market* the thing with the name "HomeStation". Sony should sue them if they do. It *will* confuse the customers, who right now walk into GameStop and say "My son wants one of those Playcubes (or GameBox, or whatever)". A friend is an assistant manager, and he had a guy who was insistant that he wanted the Gamecube 2, not the first one. Adding new names to the mix, *especially* something like "HomeStation" competing with "PlayStation" is insane. Make the MS HomeStation incompletely compatable (forward and backward) with the X-Box, and you've esentially added a 4th console to the war.

        --
        Evan

      • It will still require some sort of addon hardware to get PVR functionality out of the Xbox, unless they have thought about that already and the Xbox can be software upgraded to make it a PVR. (Anyone know for sure?) At the minimum, I would guess at least another/bigger hardrive.

        While I can't say for sure if the PVR functionality is in the software or not, I don't think it matters; a 5400 RPM, 8gig HDD is pretty weak for PVR use. People can and do get better recording ability out of Tivo. Therefore, a hardware upgrade or a new version of the Xbox is necessary.
  • M$ hall of fame (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Perdo ( 151843 )
    Ultimate TV, Bob and 640k of memory

    Perhaps Microsoft will be strengthened technicaly as linux matures the same way AMD has forced Intel to operate more efficiently with competition.
    • Re:M$ hall of fame (Score:3, Insightful)

      by generic-man ( 33649 )
      Bill Gates never said "640 KB of memory should be enough for anybody."

      Intel does not fear AMD.

      Linux in five years will be about as mature (for the home user) as Windows 98 is today. Home users do not care about stability; they care about driver support for their Winmodems and WinPrinters, and good performance on their games. Home users also do not appreciate being called "Micro$haft Winbloze lusers" by the Slashbot crowd.

      Thanks for playing.
      • Re:M$ hall of fame (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gowen ( 141411 )
        Home users do not care about stability
        Yes they do (or rather, the ones I know do). They're as likely to blame themselves as the software for crashes, though (at lot of my family say things like "It said General Protection Fault, what did I do wrong?"

        And, having spent half a day reconstructing my sister-in-law's dissertation from a floppy where Word had decided to trash it, I can guarantee that many home users care very much about stability (I've never heard such language from her, before or since).
      • Google, Then Flame (Score:3, Informative)

        by virg_mattes ( 230616 )
        > Bill Gates never said "640 KB of memory should be enough for anybody."

        He did, in 1981.

        > Intel does not fear AMD.

        "Only the paranoid survive." - Andy Grove, founder of Intel.

        > Linux in five years will be about as mature (for the home user) as Windows 98 is today.

        Never try to predict that far into the future when it comes to computers. Five years ago, Winmodems and Winprinters didn't exist. Five years before that, Windows didn't either (in any game sense, anyway). Hell, five years from now, computers themselves may be passe. How many people did you know with PDAs in 1996? And home users don't generally read Slashdot, so they don't normally care what Slashdotters call them.

        For the usual result of trying to predict the future of technology, I refer you to the quote above, that you said Mr. Gates never said.

        Virg
    • Re:M$ hall of fame (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Spankophile ( 78098 )
      Wow, what a great point... I sure can't think of any other companies with failed products.

      Maybe your M$ hall of fame should have included:

      Windows 3.1, 95, 98, 2000, MSOffice, MSO95,97,2000, IE 3.x,4.x,5.x,6.x.

      I'd say their successfull products MORE than make up for their shortcomings.

      Perhaps the linux movement will be strengthened by realizing the only way to compete with Microsoft is to offer an inexpensive clone.
  • Not surprising... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:22PM (#2882724) Journal
    Despite their previous advantage over TiVo of being able to record 2 shows at once, Ultimate TV never made any headway in the market. It had the following problems from the start...

    - It's Microsoft. Despite what they would tell you, I think there's a real stigma with having Microsoft's name attached to something at this point. Despite the reality, to the average Joe it means this thing is going to crash often and not work the way I want it to.

    - It's DirecTV only. TiVo has a "standalone" box and that means ANYONE can have TiVo.

    It probably doesn't mean anything to TiVo and/or ReplayTV anyway since Ultimate TV never really gave them any competition.

    -S
    • Despite the reality, to the average Joe it means this thing is going to crash often and not work the way I want it to.

      <karmawhore>
      What do you mean, DESPITE reality?
      </karmawhore>
    • Re:Not surprising... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gaijin42 ( 317411 )
      Tivo could also record 2 shows at once. But just on the DirecTivo unit. Pretty much all of the DirectTV PVRs can do 2 shows at once, and the cable ones can only do one show at a time.
      • I have a dishplayer, and I *sometimes* think it would be nice to be able to record two shows at once, but then again, it's VERY rare that we need to. If there was enough compelling content available, then I guess that would be a great feature, but the sad fact is, I like so few shows, that rarely are they scheduled against eachother on channels that aren't also time-shifted (for instance, I can record Buffy the Vampire Slayer at like 5pm PST by tuning it in to the New York channel - then I can be recording something else at 7pm on a different channel, when BVS is on on the west coast).
      • It's more complicated than that. The DirecTivo units had two tuners from the start, so had the hardware to record two shows at once, but the software did not initially support it. They didn't update the software to support it until after UltimateTV was out for a while and heavily pushing their ability to record two shows at once.
    • Re:Not surprising... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Guppy06 ( 410832 )
      "- It's Microsoft. Despite what they would tell you, I think there's a real stigma with having Microsoft's name attached to something at this point. Despite the reality, to the average Joe it means this thing is going to crash often and not work the way I want it to."

      If I remember right, in this case this stigma was justified. I recall early on hearing about how UltimateTV had a bug where it kept on filling up its hard drive. I remember it required a (wait for it) software patch to fix it.
    • by b0r1s ( 170449 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @01:04PM (#2883003) Homepage
      It's Microsoft. Despite what they would tell you, I think there's a real stigma with having Microsoft's name attached to something at this point. Despite the reality, to the average Joe it means this thing is going to crash often and not work the way I want it to.


      This is the one thing I dont think most slashdot readers understand fully.

      The true "average joe" doesnt think microsoft is bad. They dont leave their computers on for 20 days at a time, and they dont test them hard enough to force them to crash. Some may have noticed a crash or two, but thought very little of it.

      I was taking a drive with my girlfriend's father, talking about computers, and I mentioned that I dont run windows ... He sat there with a blank look on his face. He's a smart man, owns a decent computer, but isnt a computer nerd, and doesnt worry about the ins-and-outs of the computer world. To him, microsoft is all there is, and that's fine. They make software that does everything he wants to do. If he needs something for his computer, he goes to microsoft or dell, and gets it from them. That's just how life is.

      You may push your computer hard enough to crash windows. I, personally, push mine hard enough to crash freebsd from time to time. That makes us exceptions: most people very rarely crash their windows computers, and look at microsoft as a provider of the computer world. Is this right? Well, I have a hard time aruging that anything open source has produced tops the Office suite, and I've yet to have XP crash on me, so perhaps it's not too far fetched.

      I do agree with you that it really means nothing to Tivo and ReplayTV, but saying the stigma of microsoft was it's own downfall seems short sighted: the name microsoft probably meant more along the lines of "hey, I've heard of this company before. that's what's on my computer at work!" than "this shit's gonna crash on me."
      • I would venture that there are a great many people similar to your father-in-law. However, there are a great many ordinary computer users who hate Windows as well. I think it boils down to the user experience. Windows is buggy and unstable enough that a significant number of people experience serious problems with stability. I have many friends who have problems with their windows machines

        I would be very interested in exactly what the numbers are -- how many "joes" think microsoft is a provider of quality, and how many don't.

        A second issue is whether people blame their problems on Microsoft. Some people don't realize it's the operating system and instead associate it with a coincidental event that is not the cause ("it started freezing after I changed the printer cartridge"). On the other hand, some people blame faulty (non-MS) software or damage done by viruses on Microsoft (ok, maybe they are to blame for the last one).

        In the end, most computer users have no idea why their computer acts the way it does. Some will learn, some won't. But my guess would be that Microsoft is not gaining ground in consumer confidence. I don't know of many people, other than those on MS's payroll, who praise Microsoft products to others. Most of us who use it suffer and grumble about it when it doesn't work. And when it does work, well, it was supposed to in the first place, so I'm not throwing a party over that.

      • Re:Not surprising... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ImaLamer ( 260199 )
        the funny thing... I had a 5+ paragraph written up to dispute this crazy claim. Where did it go? Data heaven with the rest of my opened documents.

        I won't type it again. It was too good.

        So read this:

        What a normal computer person KNOWS about microsoft [miami.com]
      • by Mignon ( 34109 ) <satan@programmer.net> on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @02:48PM (#2883588)
        I was taking a drive with my girlfriend's father, talking about computers, and I mentioned that I dont run windows ... He sat there with a blank look on his face.

        I, personally, push mine hard enough to crash freebsd from time to time.

        From your description, it sounds like you pushed your girlfriend's father hard enough to crash his O/S too.

      • Your article contains two ideas:

        1. To the average person, Microsoft is what there is.
        2. The average person does not experience OS crashes.

        The first idea is correct. The second idea is incorrect and is completely superfluous given the first idea. It doesn't matter how flaky the Microsoft OS is, the average person is not going to consider it a problem with the operating system.

        Consider the following fictional scenario. Toyota makes cars, and they use engines manufactured by Matsushita. (Not saying they really do, but let's assume they do.) The brand name of these engines is "Engine(TM)." Those in the know call them "Matsushita Engine," but most people just call them "Engine." They come in models like "4-Cylinder Engine(TM)" and "6-Cylinder Engine(TM)" People buy the cars. If the engine blows a head gasket, they're not going to get angry at Matsushita; they're going to get angry at Toyota. Even if they are aware that there are different engines, they are going to think that they need to upgrade to "6-Cylinder Engine XP(TM)."

        Similarly, even if average people experience a lot of Windows crashes (which they do), they're not going to get mad at Microsoft, but rather with Dell or Compaq or something. If they are aware that they need a different operating system, it's going to be a different version of Windows.

      • As a long time windows user, win3.1 -> win95 -> win98 -> win98se -> win2k -> winXP (Don't ask how I got them, and I won't lie). I experienced it in the se -> 2k upgrade, most home consumers will experience it now with XP. They have gotten stable. Very stable. I can run my primary box for a week at a time (never gone for the longest uptime, as it still needs to reboot for various installations), compared to every 2-3 hours on win98(se) (and I'm not kidding it had serious issues with my collection of software). A server that takes less abuse very much more, I know a friend who has run it for several months.

        Any and all crashes I've had I've been able to trace back to using drivers or software not designed for XP. The only BSODs I can point to Windows for is mis-detecting my SCSI card, causing the wrong drivers to be installed. As soon as the proper drivers were installed, no problems. Not to mention last time it BSOD, probably due to a winXP-incompatible game I was running, it came up with a clear and helpful error message next time I booted. You know, "M$ giving intelligent error messages" used to be right up there with "when pigs fly" and "when hell freezes over".

        Frankly, as they in a game console just need to deal with one hardware configuration, *only* software designed for it, I wouldn't be surprised if the XboX was running some variety of WinXP. It's stable enough for it, believe it or not. And if it should crash once a month people could just as well blame it on a game bug, there sure are enough of those to pick from too.

        The most scary part is that people haven't realized just how much this is "embrace and extend". Just this time it's embrace the PC marked and extend it to include the console marked too, and not for the endusers as such, but for producers. It's like a "free bonus" console marked for all PC game makers, a "free bonus" PC marked for all who'd make a game for Xbox anyway.

        Xbox is Microsofts way of taking control of the hardware, implementing DRM, and getting licence fees for all software running on their box without getting (more) monopoly trouble in the PC marked, simply by ignoring the PC marked.

        Try to be honest here. If Xbox MK3 or thereabouts was a game console, a digital VCR, an internet machine (Messenger, IE, Outlook, Frontpage, IRC client, SSH client), a DVD player, a CD player, a home office suite (Word, Excel, Access), you could buy 3rd party licenced software, how many of your non-geek friends and family would need a real computer? The answer is: Almost none.

        Kjella
    • Anyone who's had the DishNetwork DishPlayer system (with WebTV) is acutely aware of how crappy Microsoft settop box software is.

      The thing is buggy as hell, and with each software update, it gets worse. I've returned three units on RMA, and every replacement has the same fucking problems.

      When it works, it works fairly well, and is very simple to use. My only complaint really is the WebTV marketing garbage that's on every frickin screen.
      When it doesn't work - it's frustrating as hell. It'll do things like, fail to record scheduled shows without warning, or lose all of it's saved data, without warning. Or you'll tune into a channel to watch live, and you'll get signal for about 5 seconds, then blank screen for 5 seconds, then signal again (these are called blink-outs).

      And in TRUE Microsoft-fashion, the ONLY way to work around these problems is to reset the box (with a special option code you can enter via the remote - it's secret, and undocumented, and every other DishPlayer owner I know on the net knows this code because it's what the Support Reps tell us to do).

      And, in true Microsoft-fashion, the reboot time of this machine is attrocious. It just sits there blinking for like 20 minutes while it reboots, you have no fucking idea what it's doing (just like Windows95).

      I'm going to be VERY happy when the non-Microsoft 721 DishPlayer becomes available, and I'll buy that one, and I'll take my old DishPlayer out into the back yard and reenact the fax-machine scene from Office Space.
  • by FatRatBastard ( 7583 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:24PM (#2882739) Homepage
    Its Microsoft's marketing/innovation plan (and this isn't a bash.. they've been sucessful with it):

    Throw shit at a wall and see what sticks.

    They have the money to do it, it kinda makes sense. They tried the DVR and it didn't work out the way they first saw it. They'll go back, repackage it, throw it against the wall and see if it sticks again. If not, rince; repeat.
    • Exactly. I think MS doesn't really put too much vested interest into any of their 'growth' arms .. basically, they just try and get into anything that they can feasibly throw together. When something sticks, they just start pointing content in their entrenched products towards that .. hard to fail when the shit has stuck and you've got more dynamic 'billboards' on this planet than anyone else.
  • ah choice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by scirocco ( 552292 )
    So the only player with enough money/power to really challenge the network and broadcast interests is gone. TiVo's strategy of just kiss as and remove any feature the broacasters don't like (30 second skip for instance) has always offended me. Replay just doesn't look strong enough financially to hold on. Say what you will about BillCo but I don't think a further reduction in the choice of new media is anything to rejoice about.
    • If you REALLY like the 30 second skip feature, you can always enable it through one of the many "easter egg"/backdoor codes that the unit has.

      Personally, I prefer to hit the fast forward button, zip through the commercials in 3 seconds, and then hit the play button and be at the beginning of my show instead of hitting a 30 second skip button 10 times, missing the beginning of the show, and having to rewind...
      • What I do is use 30-second skip until the show resumes, then hit the 8-second backwards button until you see non-show stuff again. You won't see more than 8 seconds of non-show stuff with that method, and it works great!
      • For almost all the shows I watch, hitting the 30 second skip 8 times, then the instant replay button twice takes me to exactly the start of the show.

        This also takes about 2 seconds, and I dont have to pay attention and try and time getting out of fast forward
        • You don't have to "time" getting the start of the show ... the Tivo has an autocorrection feature -- you hit the play button and it rewinds the show a bit, and BAM, you're at the beginning of the show.
    • Tivo has 30-second skip, you just have to turn it on. It's great, you'll never have to watch another commercial!
  • by spamkabuki ( 458468 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:25PM (#2882751) Homepage
    loses one tentacle in MV, and retreats to it's lair. But, like play-doh, it will ooze forth in another direction. So much for M$ reaching outside Redmond to embrace the Valley. Embrace and extend? No, retreat and regroup.

    Web/Ultimate TV was dead in the water anyway. Dunno why they didn't do this ages ago. TiVo and Replay may have the field to themselves for now, but they better make the most of it while they can. Game consoles were the holiday gift of 2001, but DVR's better be the gift of 2002, or they will sink under the wave of the Beast's next tentacular oozing.
  • by S. Allen ( 5756 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:26PM (#2882755)
    that leaves TiVo and ReplayTV as the main standing competitors

    What about the promising new addition to the playfield:
    Moxi [moxi.com]?
    • A Moxi warning (Score:3, Informative)

      by nsample ( 261457 )
      Moxi is a realworld example of the fears evoked by a Slashdot story a few days back. You're not allowed to play DVDs over Moxi's wireless network because of licensing restrictions, not because of the technology. (There is such great fear that you're going to start your own drive-in movie theatre, that DVDs can only be broacast over wires.)

      Due to licensing restrictions, remote DVD playback is not available in homes using wireless networking. link [moxi.com]

      There was a mention of it here [slashdot.org], but also a better story that I can't seem to track down. If anyone remembers it would be much appreciated.
  • by futuresheep ( 531366 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:26PM (#2882758) Journal
    They took their first crack at the technology, and will use what they learned to incorporate it into the next generation of the X-Box/Homestation. In 5 years I can see a single box that combines Xbox/Tivo/Moxi capabilities into one effective package.
  • by Fly ( 18255 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:26PM (#2882763) Homepage
    I found the decision to more or less put UltimateTV on life support and discontinue active work on it interesting - that leaves TiVo and ReplayTV as the main standing competitors.

    It appears to me rather that Microsoft is focusing on the product that they think will make money and more quickly give them an advantage for competing with TiVo. XBox has the components it needs to compete with TiVo: good graphics, hard drive, video in/out, and a remote interface to control it.

  • by humps ( 245087 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:27PM (#2882767)
    Doesn't this fit right into the vapourware called HomeStation?

    XBox (or call it a cheap PC) has a small harddrive, DVD decoding hw, TV out, remote, dsl/cable, lan. Stuff it with a mpeg2 encoding chip, increase the hd to TiVo size, give it a bit more ram. Don't you get a TiVo+game+browsing+DVD all-in-one box? Plus MS is kind enough to subsidise a couple of hundred dollars for each box. I don't even have to think about getting a small PC case with mini-atx mobo and half-apg size vid card with video out for my living room! Regardless how I don't like MS, that could be one hell of a box that I might just buy it so that MS effectively subsidise me!

    humps
    • Regardless how I don't like MS, that could be one hell of a box that I might just buy it so that MS effectively subsidise me!

      They'll just charge enough for the service that you end up making them a profit anyway. Might as well save yourself the trouble and just cut Bill a check now.
    • No need to add the MPEG encoder either. They'll likely keep it as a DirecTV only solution. The reason being that they don't have to absorb the cost of the extra hardware and because in the future you'll see DirecTV sending signals to XBox 2 (or Homestation or whatever it's called) that lets it know whether or not it can record a given program. This would obviously be unavailable with an Analog->MPG2 solution (like TiVo), but would get MS in good /w the media providers.
  • by gtwreck ( 74885 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:28PM (#2882777)

    As per this previous Slashdot story [slashdot.org], XBox will attempt to compete in the PVR market AND DVD player market.

    It also appears that the WebTV functionality will (or maybe it has been already?) be incorporated into the XBox.

    This is an excellent strategy on the part of M$. They have been desperately trying to invade the living room for decades. Perhaps one of the competing game consoles will pair up with a PVR provider to provide some realistic competition?

  • TiVo's doom? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:30PM (#2882791)
    How about this?

    Every Xbox gets UltimateTV capabilities as well as DVD and the serial number of the Xbox registers itself on Microsoft's UltimateTV network at a particular node address. Hence you can't record a Microsoft DRM recording off of TV and take the Xbox to your friends house and hope to view it.

    Microsoft delivers DRM to cable providers and thus giving them all the PPV TV opportunities they want.

    Not only that, but now you can rent games for your Xbox "online". Just hit a button, punch your Microsoft Passport ID and you're set. FFX is downloading to your Xbox as we speak. When the rental is over, it automatically self-destructs off of the hard drive.

    Microsoft can also push firmware changes through this network to "enhance" your Xbox. Thus being able to support Microsoft DRM formats and the MPAA follows suit. All new DVDs are magically supported on the Xbox.

    I would think that this is the beginning of badness...
  • I find it a little odd that they'd put this on hold so quickly. The whole thing was only in existance for what, 18 months? I don't have any more information than anyone else, but I'd suspect one of the following occurred:

    1) Massive legal implications were found
    2) The line was unmarketable (view TiVo's apparent inability to market itself out of a soggy paper bag, and it's the same problem for MS)
    3) They're rolling it all into the Xbox
    4) They found that they couldn't provide something that was a quantum leap over TiVo's service
    5) Support costs of keeping the UTV going on what I suspect was a Windows code base were too high, and it wasn't stable enough. Anybody with any experience here?

    I can't see where rolling it into the Xbox makes sense, as the Xbox only has 8GB of HD space (IIRC), which is chump change from a media storage standpoint.

    Seems to me that a more MS-esque move would be to fund both UTV and XBox, even if they were at a loss, and get the hardware in place, then adjust and adapt later. TiVo almost certianly can't hang with MS from a "deep pockets" standpoint, and they should've been able to buy their way into the market.

    It just seems odd to me, I guess.
  • yes but.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:33PM (#2882811) Journal
    "I found the decision to more or less put UltimateTV on life support and discontinue active work on it interesting - that leaves TiVo and ReplayTV as the main standing competitors."

    Yes, but which are you more likely to buy. A game machine that double as a tivo type device or a plain old tivo type device? If they can get the XBox to record TV while playing the Xbox then they are a step up on tivo I'd think. You could let your childern play during your soaps and then watch your soaps after the kids are done playing. While that is one scenerio.

    • Except that the current Xbox has no video-in hardware and no obvious way to connect it (they took out the USB/1394 ports it had originally been rumored to have). So unless MS offers a trade-in/upgrade program you'll still end up buying another box.

      I'm quite happy with my separate PS2, Gamecube, and TiVo thanks :)
  • all this means is that the future xbox will run WinCE.NET and have DVR so that cable companys would like to offer it

    + MS would get into more liveing rooms because the cable company would like them ergo more .NET clients out there (-;

    regards

    john jones
  • by conan_albrecht ( 446296 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:34PM (#2882815)
    of what MS will do with this. MS has already taken over the PC market, but there are many, many homes that can't afford a PC. But as someone who lived in the South side of Chicago for over a year (working with many disadvantaged homes), I can tell you *every* home with kids has a Nintendo/Sega/etc.

    So now MS has a console to get into those homes. In some senses, it's good for them because they'll get a "real' computer. But of course it just extends the MS monopoly.

    It's only a matter of time before we see MS Office for XBox, IE for XBox, etc. where people no longer need a regular computer. The $300 XBox does it all.

  • I remember reading usenet (and maybe even Slashdot) posts from WebTV employees after they got sucked into the Microsoft empire. If memory serves me correctly, there were a lot of complaints that the management organisation at Microsoft was so heavy handed with the new WebTV group that it killed off the division's desire to innovate, and went so far as to strangle their marketing of the product line completely. Lots of people left, and there was a huge talent drain that essentially made WebTV what it is today.

    So now I'm wondering, with the merging of the set-top division with the X-Box division, is one group going to feel they've gotten the short end of the stick again? Microsoft's performance beyond the desktop has arguably been less than stellar, so there's already a cloud hanging over these folks.
  • Moxi as was reported here really excites me! I like the idea of my cable box AND my PVR being an all in one solution....if it goes like I hope it does, it will finally allow me to record one show while I watch another....something that my current VCR/cable box combination does not allow. It seems like the cable providers don't understand that, sometimes, there are two programs scheduled at the same time that interest people. Make a PVR that can record 2+ streams from my cable provider at the same time, and I will buy it.
  • Perhaps this is Microsoft paranoia, but I see this as something more than Microsoft wimpering with its tail between its legs.

    UTV, and WebTV, as a stand-alone product, was never of much value to Microsoft. However, if they can tie a number of things together (UTV with XBox, Homestation like), then it becomes a television computing platform. And that means money, and that means a core business. (Like palmtop computing, or mobile computing.)

    Watch for the UTV not to disappear, but to merge into a larger product. And that product is to be the sucessor to the home PC. An always-on computing appliance that is connected right to your television.
  • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:41PM (#2882861) Homepage
    Having just bought an XBox it does seem a little odd that MSFT has two hardware platforms with almost identical purposes.

    I suspect that the reorganization is more to do with internal politics and ability to deliver than a strategic shift. The WebTV project was never quite there. The cost of the device was just too much for what it delivered. Plus the WebTV platform is slow and underpowered to support UltimateTV, XBox is overkill.

    WebTV could be reduced to a program that is loaded onto the console. Adding ultimate TV requires nothing more than a bigger hard drive and TV signal acquisition hardware.

    What would be cool is some sort of PVR that has a firewire interface so you can plug in extra disk drives. I love my DishPlayer, but 33 hours is not enough, nor is 120. What I really need is the ability to add extra storage as I need it. I want the ability to record at least 2000 hours of video, which won't be a lot of hard drives soon.

    In case you are wondering, the more seasame street I can record, the more my 11 month old will let me go online. Otherwise he comes over for computing lessons.

  • It's leverage ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hmarq ( 240484 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @12:47PM (#2882908) Homepage
    Many folks commented that the Xbox itself is a loss leader, MS needs revenue streams associated ... the initail comments were that that would be the games ... but if the infrastructure in the current XB or an upgraded version makes it a real competitor to TiVo with a subscription model attractive to the whole household (meaning mom and dad, not just the gamer kids) it becomes a success for MS
    • Many folks commented that the Xbox itself is a loss leader, MS needs revenue streams associated ... the initail comments were that that would be the games ... but if the infrastructure in the current XB or an upgraded version makes it a real competitor to TiVo with a subscription model attractive to the whole household (meaning mom and dad, not just the gamer kids) it becomes a success for MS


      Although this has some long term value, the Xbox is more a loss leader for the games and accessories. I've heard rumors that the Xbox may be profitable as soon as Q1 2003.
    • IMO the X-Box would be a poor PVR, unless it has the horsepower, disk access etc to record TV at the same time as playing games or DVDs. This isn't necessary for the ability to pause live TV (when you're presumably not wanting to play games - but who knows), but it certainly a requirement for the PVR to be able to record shows for you whenever they are on.

      Personally I don't think game box / PVR is a good combo - I'd prefer a dedicated PVR.
  • The guys who worked for Ultimate TV move to XBox. The XBox does have a hard drive in it? Are they going to give the XBox the functionality of Ultimate TV? I mean the PS2 has a major selling point of being a DVD player. If the XBox was also a TV recorder I just might actually consider getting one.
  • Technology nowadays makes many things possible that weren't possible even a year ago. Although I hate Microsoft in no uncertain terms, I believe the best thing for them is to continue the Xbox development and release an Xbox II or something like that. It would include everything a complete home theater system would include, in one small box, except for the television set. Furthermore, Xbox II's will have wireless networking built-in, so that you could put a bunch of Xbox II's and they'd be connected automatically, allowing you, for example, to stream some Internet "radio" station once, but listen to it in two separate rooms. (I often want to do that with my computers, but I couldn't figure out how yet.)

    Secondly, Microsoft should make deals with telecommunications companies to make broadband a reality once again. This would give consumers an additional reason to get a bunch of Xboxes. With televisions and computer monitors rapidly converging into a single display, you'll be able to use an Xbox as a home theater component or a computer.

    Now, all you Linux Internet Appliance folks better get cracking and implement a slick, easy-to-use, quiet, and efficient box that does the same thing, cheaper and better.

    OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH WELL.

  • Ultimate TV was a nice system, but honestly, was it that great of a system? What did is present for the consumer beyond dual record capability and that nice cutesy added content on the side of the screen? But was that really that useful? I mean dual tuners - how often was that made use of to record two shows at the same time? And as far as their enhanced content, I don't realy think that the regular TV watching world is ready for that. Some ABC/ESPN Shows already use their Enhanced TV content (dual TV show/web show), and the use of that system isn't that high (compared with the number of viewers of these shows).

    And finally, I also think that Microsoft is really out classed in this market by the big boys of home audio/video. I wonder if they really understand what it will take for them to break into the market? We are not just talking about making a superior product to what is out there, but you also have to get the consumers to actually buy these products. The A/V community is VERY hard to convince of good products. And when you make a bad product or two, they won't forget about it (see seriously overrated Bose).

    RonB
  • I want a TiVo (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rwuest ( 2452 )
    I _really_ want a TiVo, but I'm waiting for a future generation one with more horsepower and networking, that would play games and allow for interactive use with X windows and all the hacking tools. As configurable and changeable as most any Linux systems are. Even if it allows someone to write a program to usurp the TiVo service. That would mean they need to make their service and control application worth what it costs so people would buy it by choice. And most probably will. It's their application running to begin with.

    This would allow the TiVo computer to compete simultaneously with the other DVR manufacturers and with the xbox. Running other apps would increase the incentive to buy. I know there are Linux tools to do this kind of thing right now. They are not for most peoples living rooms, though. A system out of the box, nicely packaged, running a very marketable program, a DVR, and a useable Linux installation is much more desirable. Certainly to me.

    There are already a lot of apps that would fit nicely in an entertainment system. MP3 players, X10 controllers, web browsers. These all exist today. Will an Xbox do these things? Or Replay?

    Increasing the market for Loki games would be a good thing, too. If those games sell, more will get ported to Linux and we all win.

    Playing TuX Racer on my TV would be cool. Doing so while recording a TV show someone wants to watch later is even cooler.

    There are a lot of hackers that would write code for this thing if they had one. There's no telling where it would lead.

    And yes, some people would figure out how to copy movies from Direct TV and distribute them over the internet. They would distribute the code and probably be sued by some industry group. Others will be sued for telling where to get the code.

    I will buy one the day it hits the market.

  • that leaves TiVo and ReplayTV as the main standing competitors

    Slap a MPEG2 encoder and a TV tuner onto the Xbox and call it Xbox-2, and they're right back in the market, with the bonus that the box also plays video games.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @01:18PM (#2883067) Homepage Journal
    ...why they should go to Linux, rather than a supported system from a company that's guaranteed to be around for a long time, maybe you can now mention just a teeensy bit of difference between the company staying around and the product.


    I find it disturbing that Microsoft essentially killed off not just a product line but an entire networking philosophy - that of using the TV essentially as a combined computer monitor & network device.


    (Sure, the former has been done a lot, the past 30 years, but usually the networking has been seperate.)


    Don't anyone believe for a second that Microsoft will actually open up the Intellectual Property, if there's no buyer, even though they'd get no other income from it. Don't believe any "UltimateTV" or "WebTV" blueprints will start appearing on OpenCores or any other open source hardware site. And don't believe that Microsoft gives a damn for its customers or for technology as a whole.


    If they lose that market, then it's in their interests to kill the technology. Dead technology might haunt them, but it can't hurt them.

  • As an avid GameCube fan/supporter I hope the WebTV/UltimateTV guys bring some of their bad luck with them to the XBox!!
  • by Goldenhawk ( 242867 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @01:27PM (#2883115) Homepage
    My wife convinced me to buy a UTV last year. In my experience it was the best home appliance we bought in recent memory, despite my concerns about its Microsoft leanings.

    Allow me to throw out some personal observations.

    - It's NEVER crashed. Ever. It's a bit slow to respond to some keys, as if it's waiting for some bitstreamed data off the satellite for the next guide page, but it's rock-stable. This is no surprise - after all, if you never install anything except Windows9x, your computer will never need rebooting. It's when you install all the other cruft that things get flaky. And you can't do that to a UTV.

    - It's almost perfectly integrated with DirecTV. That's something that Tivo lacks, and most Tivo owners don't know they're missing. For example, it's a bitstream-pure capture from the satellite. The picture is perfect every time. All the guide information is captured with the program - click Info when you watch a recording, and you get all the title and description, no matter how much later you watch it. The expanded guide is terrific - title, actors, and plot summary for every movie and most serial shows. The complete integration also extends to the record features, so as you browse or search the guide, you just click the record button to capture the selected show - no matter when it is. No programming, just one click recording (hmmm... patent material there?)

    - Dual stream capability means I can record or watch two shows at the same time (yes, watch two - see the next topic about picture-in-picture). In fact I can record two and watch a third off the hard drive.

    - It has a built-in PIP tuner. For those of us who didn't spend the extra bucks for a PIP-capable TV years ago, it works around that by providing a minimal picture in picture. And both the main and mini shows get captured for instant rewind - up to half an hour - not just the main screen.

    - It's completely changed our paradigm of TV watching. No commercials, ever - we watch slightly delayed and simply skip them. Instant replay on any sports play. By delaying a football game an hour, I can watch an entire quarter in 8 or 9 minutes - each play is about 35-40 seconds apart, so one "Skip" forward and I'm watching the next play instantly. Want to watch a program at the same time as something else? Just record it and watch it afterwards. In fact, record TWO things and watch a third off the hard disk. How about easy recording - see something you like in the guide, click the record button and it gets recorded for you, start to finish, no overlaps, no fuss. You can even click a second time to record every instance ad nauseum. It is so convenient and perfectly suited to how I would have preferred to watch TV in the first place that anything less is pure frustration. My wife and I find ourselves hunting for the "Rewind" button on the radio now, since we're so used to backing up 7 seconds if we miss something. In fact we've even turned to each other and laughed after both wishing we could rewind something the baby did, to watch it again.

    - Integration with my VCR. The UTV includes an infrared LED on a wire that you position on the front of your VCR, and the UTV can command your VCR to power up, start recording, stop recording, and power down. So you can set the system up to tape directly to the VCR if you don't want to dump something to the hard disk.

    Sorry if I sound like a UTV commercial, but this is no joking the first consumer appliance I've ever bought that not only lived up to its hype, it far exceeded it. So from where I sit, who cares if it has MS on the label.

    Now, as to the "others": Sure it has some shortcomings. But those are essentially in features I don't use. Okay, it's not fast, but I can live with the slow remote response in some features. I logged on to WebTV exactly once. It's a pain in the neck typing in a URL using four cursor buttons on a remote. The download speed for a page is okay, but nothing to write home about. And the resolution on a TV screen is awful. So I could care less if WebTV goes away. It's also got email capability. Again, typing an email would be a royal pain, and reading on the screen would be frustrating. So who cares about TV email. Anyone who buys this thing for a web browser or email appliance will be disappointed. But I doubt that's why it's selling. It's because of the awesome DTV integration. So if WebTV rolls over and croaks, good riddance, as long as the UTV features live on.

    Finally, it's not $499 anymore. I think the shelf price at WalMart is $199.

    Finally, one question: Why is MS (or is it DTV) still pumping so many bucks into UTV advertising? Just yesterday during the NFL playoffs, I saw a couple UTV ads.

    My advice: if you can have DTV and can afford an extra $10 per month (for the guide and record features), GET ONE while you can. And my take on this: MS is wisely losing the WebTV and email features, and focusing on the really cool digital video features. (I hope!)
    • by .@. ( 21735 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @01:37PM (#2883158) Homepage
      It's NEVER crashed. Ever. It's a bit slow to respond to some keys, as if it's waiting for some bitstreamed data off the satellite for the next guide page, but it's rock-stable. This is no surprise - after all, if you never install anything except Windows9x, your computer will never need rebooting. It's when you install all the other cruft that things get flaky. And you can't do that to a UTV.

      Tivo doesn't crash either.

      It's almost perfectly integrated with DirecTV. That's something that Tivo lacks, and most Tivo owners don't know they're missing.

      Wrong. There are DirecTivos, which are Tivos with DirecTV tuners built in. You get all the features you mentioned.

      Dual stream capability means I can record or watch two shows at the same time (yes, watch two - see the next topic about picture-in-picture). In fact I can record two and watch a third off the hard drive.

      Again, DirecTivos do this also.

      It's completely changed our paradigm of TV watching.

      Once more, Tivos do this as well.
    • It's almost perfectly integrated with DirecTV. That's something that Tivo lacks, and most Tivo owners don't know they're missing. For example, it's a bitstream-pure capture from the satellite.
      I think this is a bad example of what TiVo lacks. DirectTiVo's also do this...

      All the guide information is captured with the program - click Info when you watch a recording, and you get all the title and description, no matter how much later you watch it.
      Okay, instead of clicking "Info", you click on the right arrow on TiVo.

      The expanded guide is terrific - title, actors, and plot summary for every movie and most serial shows.
      Tivo's give you this, plus original air date, episode numbers, directors, writers, and executive producers in some cases.

      I'll give you that the UTV probably has better integration with your VCR. However, the hackability of the TiVo units is incredible...

    • My DirecTiVo does all the stuff you mentioned, except for the PIP thing, which is hardly missed (why do I need PIP when I can record whats on the other channel and view it later?). It is also the best home entertainment appliance I have ever owned. The only other appliance that came close was the plain jane Hughes DirecTV receiver I had before it.
  • First, the bad: Microsoft getting into everyone's living room means that as Linux and OpenOffice slowly gain market share and begin pushing M$ out of the PC marketspace, M$ is finding a new market to keep pissing us off in.

    Next, the good: If Microsoft incorporates PVR technology into the Xbox, at least the big media companies will end up suing someone who can afford the lawyers to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court.
    • What makes you think MS won't cave and build DRM into XBox2, giving them control over how you use the PVR and the data it records? I don't even think "cave" is the right term. "Execute lucrative licensing agreements" with MPAA companies is more like it.
  • I'm one of the few people (on Slashdot anyway) that likes the XBox. I think it's smart technology that works well (kinda rare for Microsoft) and if nothing else it should bring more companies to develop games for the PC, which is always a good thing.

    I do, however, have reservations about having an "all-in-one" box. I share some with other Slashdotters who are worried about Microsoft controlling all the information (although, really, this is so X-Filish it's laughable). I'm more concerned about the concentration of devices.

    I don't want to purchase one device that handles all of my entertainment, and if it breaks I'm in trouble. Also, I don't want to spend an extremely large sum of my money for one entertainment peripheral (or have to pay a monthly fee to play games).

    I hope MS recognizes this, and makes a couple different versions of the XBox 2 - one without all the trimmings.

  • Microsoft's strategic goal is to reduce it's dependance on one-time purchase revenue (e.g., operating system, applications, hardware, etc.) and to shift to on-going services revenue. Coupling the Xbox with a pay-as-you-go TV service is (one of) the holy grail(s) for MS. This is a no-brainer. It's probably why they are willin to lose a over $100 million to enter the console market.
  • Well, I guess it's over then. They could have at least called it penultimate to leave some room for a final, final TV.
  • by slashdot.org ( 321932 ) on Tuesday January 22, 2002 @03:23PM (#2883797) Homepage Journal
    For me the main reason to buy UltimateTV was that it recorded the DirecTV signal digitally (and two channels at a time). I had seen Tivo and Replay and I never liked the quality.

    However, the product as a whole sucks monkey-ass. Interestingly enough, a friend of mine who happens to work for WebTV (his bad), tells me that a lot of senior developers from M$ where on the project. I must come to the conclusion that with senior he must mean age, not superiour technical skills.

    Microsoft, a company that has spent gazillions on User Interface research, managed to get a product out that fails even the most basic requirements of a good UI.

    For example,- it's not uncommon for the unit to take > 2 seconds to respond to a key press on the remote. It was M$ themselves that concluded that a response has to be within a second.

    There's the case where the unit shows a screen with NO information, just ONE button (and it's not a delete confirmation or so). Like, what else do they expect us to do than hit that button? E.g. redundancy gallore.

    Never mind the horrible navigation and the terrible interface to select/unselect your channels from the 2400 that are available (of which many are unavailable for reasons such as you didn't subscribe to them, oddly enough there's evidence that the software DOES know that these channels are not subscribed to).

    I could write a book about this product. It pisses me off though,- we kept the unit under the assumption that it was still very new and further development would improve the software. Like that was ever gonna happen...
  • I'm surpirsed BillG didnt get more poon in his first 40 years showing this kind of tenacity to keep finding ways of crawling in our pants to lift money out of our wallets.

    IE, Ultimate TV, XBox, MSN - none of it is designed for gaming or TV watching or surfing the net - it is designed to get M$ in our front doors and into our living rooms.

    Fucking business criminals - putting everyone and every other technology out of business so BillG can an even *bigger* house... sigh.

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