Monday, 12 March 2012

iPad App delay for Virgin Media's TiVo down to network connectivity conundrum?

The plot thickens regarding the much delayed iPad app for Virgin Media's TiVo. PaidContent:UK now reports that the app is ready and has been submitted and approved by Apple.

So....where the frack heck is it then?

Well, TiVo doesn't have Wi-Fi built-in, and Virgin aren't a fan of customers having to wire-up their home network to TiVo, and as such are looking for a better way of connecting mobile control device (like the iPad and other tablets) to TiVo, instead of customers downloading the app and then realising that their router is nowhere near their TiVo:
And that poses a big challenge to operators - how can Virgin Media launch its fancy new app experience when it knows it will instantly disappoint thousands of consumers who can’t use it? And how does the company manage requests from customers who want its engineers to relocate their WiFi router or run extra cabling?
Virgin's Nick Ontiveros (TV Strategy, Digital Entertainment) recently explained on the Help and Support Forums that Virgin are looking for a better way to connect TiVos to other devices while talking about the delayed arrival of multi-room streaming (here and here):
....people hate wires, we've found, and not a lot of people have their TiVo right next door to their router. It's not going to help our customers win any interior design awards if we've got CAT 5 running through the home. We're testing through a better way to do it, so when we bring it to market it will be a finished product that everyone can use if they want it.
....With regards to wiring in the home, a lot of people just expect it to work over wi-fi, like AirPlay, or any other type of streaming video. I personally think that wiring people's homes is a really bad idea. It's not forward thinking at all, and the amount it will cost us in expensive CAT 5 will be for a solution that has a 2 year shelf life. The next standard of wi-fi (802.11ac) supports speeds of 500Mbps - it's just the way the market is moving.

I agree that wiring will provide the best experience today, and certainly our solution will be adaptive to respect the customer's wants and take advantage of existing infrastructure, but we want to release a solution that is clean, customer friendly, and flexible. We also have to look beyond box-to-BOX streaming, and onto box-to-device streaming as well. We won't be able to do that with an all wired solution.
So, what options are open to Virgin? Well, there's Homeplugs which I'm a big fan of, and which the likes of BT Vision use in order to allow their customers to watch VOD content when necessary. Then there are Wi-Fi adapters which are available for the stateside TiVo Premiere. In theory, a Wireless N adapter should have enough bandwidth to stream MPEG 2 HD, let alone allow an iPad and a TiVo to chat to each other.

As Nick Ontiveros states, there's 802.11ac, but as a wireless standard its not expected to become standardized until later this year and would require new routers for Virgin's customers.

Meanwhile, the waiting continues. Personally I'd just allow Homeplug owners the option to use them, and the app, while developing an alternative solution. But then I don't run Virgin Media and that's probably a good thing.


NoFun said...

Utter rubbish. Expensive cat5? Not to mention no current iPad/iPod is 11ac compatible. They could still release the app, but won't as this is VM's usual strategy. Either Nick O is working with an extremely limited budget or within some other tight constraints or he needs to go.

borospark said...

Utter rubbish, I would think that most people have one point into their house which is paired off for tv & broadband, meaning they are next to each other. Why not just release it anyway for the people who can use it. It's not like they haven't released sub-standard products in the past, the super hub being a prime example.
Maybe tv manufacturers should hold back on smart TVs because some people can't use them

Ed said...

I can understand that Virgin want to work out what their "mass market" strategy is for things like multi-room streaming and tablet apps. However, with most tech it has been the case that technologically minded "early adopters" are willing to go the extra mile themselves to start using some of these features during a "beta" stage - in the process they find some of the flaws, making the services better for when they are finally released to the masses.

Personally, I've already got a Homeplug AV network, so plugging my two TiVos into it was a no brainer. Yes, it may not be for everyone, but for those of us who are minded to network our own houses, please Virgin, let us play with some of these features!

James Elson said...

Very frustrating. I've already got a homeplug right next to my TiVo (wiring in the PS3 and Wii which only have 802.11b WiFi) and have stuck a bit of cat5 cable in the back of the TiVo just in case it ever came to life.

The cost of cat5 can't be an issue - Virgin sent me a ridiculous amount of the stuff when they sent me the DIY kit, none of which I asked for or was needed.

What I can see is likely to be a big issue for Virgin is customers who will download the app (no matter how many warnings they put on it) and complain the app "doesn't work", giving it one star.

But please Virgin, don't leave us in the cold because of this.

je_epers said...

I have cat 5 installed all over house. It is used for computing, sound and soon to be used for sending hdmi. My TiVo box is connected. I am using the American version of TiVo app with dummy server running found on Internet no problem via pc. They appear to think all there customers are idiots unable to install simple wiring . We're not all that stupid.

ady kirsty and isabelle said...

Come on release the app!!!!! We have waited long enough a cat5 cable isn't a problem, we all have one laying around if not they are available for like £1. c'mon vm

adiboy said...

Frustrating that even if my wireless router is near my Tivo and even though I can control my TV, AV receiver, blu-ray player using my android phone or tablet (or ipad if I had one), I am not allowed to control my Tivo in case somebody else hasn't got appropriate wiring or wireless. I'm glad the BBC don't stop us using iplayer just in case some people don't have a computer!

dan said...

well it is not hard really is it the tivo box has usb port why not design a wireless adapter what is compatible with the tivo and the wireless router or they should of designed the boxes a little better they rushed it out to get more customers.

Ned the Nerd said...

Have been running the US Tivio app on my iPhone and IPad for a couple of months using a triple home plug (cost 30 quid of eBay). Surely this is an opportunity for VM to make some cash selling VM branded home plug packs! Wouldn't be without the app now, google Bonjour VM to get the info.

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