Reader Skobb77 asked me a few weeks ago for my thoughts on TiVo, the set-top box maker. To tell you the truth, I have never used a TiVo, but I do know that owners use it to record programs and filter out commercials. It is the best-known set-top box maker, but in fact it is a relatively small electronics company. Fans of the technology swear by it, which is always a good thing for a company when it wants to build a strong customer base. 4.36 million people use TiVo. It has a strong cult following. While TiVo sounds like a really attractive concept–after all, who wouldn’t want to watch commercial-free television–there are still millions of people who don’t use TiVo, even though it’s been available for years.
TiVo’s stock rose recently as investors rewarded it for its new pricing structure, which TiVo hopes will attract new customers. Analysts are rightly bearish about the company’s long-term future. Many do not believe that TiVo can survive as an independent company and that it will either be acquired or fold. TiVo reminds me of another former technology highflier whose best days may be behind–Palm. Palm introduced the first personal digital assistant (PDA). It became a huge hit, and the name "Palm" became synonymous with PDAs. In business, no lucrative innovations are left uncopied. Other manufacturers started to imitate Palm’s success in the late 1990’s. Microsoft introduced the PocketPC, now the best-selling PDA operating system. Dell’s Axim, a PocketPC PDA, is now the best-selling PDA. Research In Motion’s Blackberry also became a huge hit, further dampening Palm sales. Cell phone makers are a new threat as they design phones that can perform most, if not all, that a Palm can. This left Palm in a very weak position, and its stock price tumbled. Palm split into hardware and software companies, and the hardware company ended up merging with rival Handspring in order to survive. To this day, Palm is a shadow of its former self, although it continues to hold its own in the PDA market.
Perhaps TiVo is an Apple Computer in waiting–a company whose with a promising past that is merely waiting for another huge breakthrough. Perhaps TiVo will be rescued by a larger suitor, such as Google, which is rumored to be interested in TiVo. More likely though, TiVo will continue to bump along, trying to find a suitor or a business plan that will make it successful. Meanwhile, other technology, media, satellite, and cable companies have jumped into the set-top box fray, siphoning off sales from TiVo. While TiVo is a pioneer, history is riddled with companies that pioneered a market and then faded into obscurity as their rivals overwhelmed them. I think TiVo’s legacy is that eventually its name is now a generic noun–like the kleenex. A kleenex is a facial tissue, but not all facial tissues are kleenex.
In other tech news, Google just launched Google Finance, a beta finance site. I took a look tonight and was underwhelmed. (Wade3016, did you read this?) I still prefer to do finance research at Marketwatch, CNN Money, and Yahoo! Finance.
Blog Notes: Tortmaster, no worries on the dinner. No, the metaphor wasn’t about you. I’ll get you back sometime. The Atlas metaphor really has one message–take care of your best people, the ones who work hard for you. You never know when you’ll need them, and if you don’t treat them well or diss them, they’ll walk and take their talents elsewhere.
I’m sorry to see Team Korea lose this weekend to Team Japan 6-0 in the World Baseball Classic (WBC). After beating Team Japan twice in competition, I think it’s unfair that the Koreans were eliminated in the third game. I believe the WBC semifinals and finals should be a best-of-three competitions. Baseball is trying too hard to mimick the World Cup. Major League Baseball is tweaking the WBC format–I hope that league officials consider adding more games to the WBC schedule. Japan won the WBC championship today 10-6 over Cuba. This was a surprise to me–Cuba looked invincible until tonight’s game. Japan might not have been in the championship at all if the WBC moved to a best-of-three format. I am glad to hear that Seattle Mariner Ichiro Suzuki, my favorite player, was the game’s MVP. The World Baseball Classic exceeded expectations. It’s a shame it won’t be held again until 2009.