TiVo mobile video service now on Microsoft devices

Wed Jun 8, 4:22 PM ET

TiVo Inc.(Nasdaq:TIVO - news) on Wednesday said it extended its TiVoToGo portable video service to pocket computers and mobile phones running Microsoft software, as the television recording company beefed up its offerings in an effort to differentiate from rivals.

TiVo said TiVoToGo is now available on Microsoft Corp.'s (Nasdaq:MSFT - news) Windows Mobile-based Portable Media Centers -- paperback-sized devices that can play digital music and videos -- as well as certain Windows Mobile-based Smartphones and PocketPC handheld computers.

The move improves on TiVo's TiVoToGo initiative, announced earlier this year, allowing users to shift recorded TV programs to a personal computer in the same home.

The new feature lets users travel with those shows and watch them on devices made by companies such as iRiver, Samsung Electronics (005930.KS), Hewlett-Packard Co.(NYSE:HPQ - news) and Dell Inc. (NasdaqELL - news).

TiVo signed a key digital video recorder (DVR) distribution deal with cable provider Comcast (Nasdaq:CMCSA - news) this year, quelling investors' fears about its plans to add subscribers to its fee-based service. But it still faces competition from cable and satellite TV providers, as well as consumer electronics makers.

TiVo executive Matt Wisk said services like TiVo's powerful on-screen program guide and TiVoToGo, free to monthly-fee-paying subscribers, offer consumers a premium to generic DVRs that only record and play back shows.

"Our business model is pretty sound, but our challenge is how to raise the bar of what that $12.95 a-month delivers to people," Wisk said.

Microsoft said the new TiVo feature could spark demand in the portable digital video market, whose growth has been slack compared with the explosive expansion of the portable audio market fueled by Apple Computer Inc.'s (Nasdaq:AAPL - news) iPod digital music players. Video phones could also benefit.

"In-Stat (a research firm) said that video-on-mobile-phones will become a $5.4 billion market by 2009," said John Pollard, of Microsoft's Windows Mobile Applications and Services Marketing group. "This is fantastic piece to build momentum."

Analysts said that while TiVo's drive to innovate is important, they are anxious to hear about other partnerships that will spread its distribution, since gaining new subscribers is more critical to the company's future.

"Immediate impact seems small, (but) long-term impact could be material," said analyst William Kidd of Vintage Research. "TiVo needs to continue to forge relationships with cable providers in order to reach the households that crave TiVo's functionality."

Shares of TiVo rose 24 cents, or 3.4 percent, at $7.22 on Nasdaq late Wednesday, after touching $7.73 earlier in the day.

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