TiVo: battered, bruised and bewildered

A few days ago in one momentary lapse of reason and unbridled optimism, I suggested same ways to save TiVo. Others jumped in with their ideas, some of them quite brilliant. (Salon has picked up on that theme.)

What TiVo needs, says Josh Bernoff, an analyst at Forrester Research who follows the company closely, is a huge ecosystem of users and software developers willing to take a chance on its new features. But that won’t happen if TiVo looks like it’s on the rocks. There’s only one man who can save TiVo now, Bernoff and others say: Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs.

Bernoff gets it half right. I don’t think Apple is what TiVo needs. What the company needs is: open sourcing its entire platform, so that it can attract more developers. If it doesn’t its adios TiVo.

Last week, I caught up with Milo Medin who in past life had helped cobble together @Home, the high-speed start-up. He pointed out that one of the reasons why projects like MythTV are taking off is because they are open source, have a community and are also addressing the market need: features which TiVo can’t roll out (like Internet sharing etc) because its beholden to its network/satellite partners. Mike Ramsey is going to be at eTech, and I hope he gets up and makes a radical enough announcement that attracts more developers to TiVo. They really need to do something fast.

Today the company announced their financial performance, and things are looking. The beloved company of the TiVoted is badly bruised, battered and bewildered. Mounting losses, legal quagmire and its biggest customer DirecTV looking to switch platforms to an in-house technology, things are not looking good for TiVo.

In the first quarter, TiVo expects to post a net loss of $8 million to $10 million on service and technology revenue of $37.4 million to $38 million, surrounding the First Call target of $37.5 million. The company expects to add 265,000 to 300,000 subscribers in the period, with 200,000 to 225,000 coming from DirecTV. [CBS Marketwatch]

The company expects to post a profit in the 4th quarter 2005. Optimistic given that the clock is ticking on them.