Aside from supporting YouTube, the AppleTV is about as Internet-connected as a first generation iPod. This despite the device sporting an Ethernet connection, high speed WiFi, and running Mac OSX under the hood.
In comparison, TiVo’s Linux-based line of “broadband-connected” DVRs play host to a growing range of web services, which, as of today, now includes the photo-sharing sites, Fox Interactive Media-owned Photobucket and Google’s Picasa. TiVo previously offered support for the now defunct Yahoo! Photos, and many had expected the company to add support for Yahoo-owned Flickr as a direct replacement, so it’s with some surprise that they’ve chosen to partner with two competitors instead.
With the new update, TiVo subscribers can access their own digital photos hosted on Photobucket or Picasa, as well as those shared by friends and family, through their broadband-connected TiVo boxes. “Photos will be displayed at the highest possible resolution on each TiVo box, meaning TiVo Series3 and TiVo HD subscribers can see their memories in full high definition”, according to the press release.
As we noted back in October when the company announced a partnership with the online music service Rhapsody, adding support for third-party services is part of TiVo’s strategy to distinguish itself from more generic DVR offerings. Other TiVo supported web services include Amazon’s television and movie download service, UnBox; Yahoo! Weather and Traffic; movie booking service, Fandango; and the Internet radio network, Live365.
So how long will it be before Apple follows TiVo’s lead and adds more support for various web services to the AppleTV? Rumors are growing stronger that Apple will soon be rolling out a movie rental service for iTunes that can be accessed directly from its set-top box, rather than being tied to a Mac or PC. And at this year’s D: conference, Steve Jobs appeared to acknowledge that for the AppleTV to succeed it will need to loosen its ties to the PC and bring in more content directly from the Internet: “Coming from the PC market you first think about getting content from your PC to your living-room. I’m not sure that’s really what most consumers want”, said Jobs.
Of course, the best way to give consumers what they want would be to open up the AppleTV, and I’m not sure that will ever happen.