TiVo All Dolled Up   by

For the last nine years I have been responsible for the TiVo® user interface.  I wasn’t involved in the original creation of TiVo, but I worked hard to keep it true to that initial vision of simplicity as we added extensive functionality to our Internet-connected DVRs.

This week we announced the TiVo® Premiere box and our new high-definition user interface.  My team, has been creating this new look for TiVo for the past two years.  The design came from over ten years of listening to and understanding our DVR customers, evaluating the capabilities of our newest platform, and a tireless cycle of design, test, iterate.  Our design process is collaborative and involves a cross-functional team of visual designers, product managers, engineers, and marketing staff.  Our research group runs extensive usability and quantitative studies to help assure we are getting it right, and the beta program team releases it to a select group of individuals to use in their homes.  (Sign up to participate in future beta programs here: https://fieldtrials.tivo.com/signup/default.html) We released a sample of this UI to all Internet-connected TiVo HD DVRs as the “TiVo Search Beta” feature at the beginning of 2009, and received helpful email feedback directly from users.

We are very excited about what this new TiVo UI offers our customers.  We have taken advantage of the resolution and screen real estate offered by HDTVs to make it easier to find great shows, movies, and web videos to watch, while still preserving the ease-of-use that made TiVo famous:

  • Many screens have a PREVIEW AREA that gives additional information about the show or movie without the need to transition to a new screen.
  • There is extensive use of POSTERS and IMAGES to make it quicker to indentify TV shows and movies.

With most DVRs just using the guide or search to find shows, we wanted to give our users more options to stumble upon something great:

  • SEARCH – one place to search for shows, movies, web videos, and actors all at the same time.  We display the results in order of popularity, so you only need to enter one to three letters to find what you are looking for.  Enter “O” and you’ll immediately see “The Office”, “Oprah Winfrey”, and “Onion News Network”.
  • EXPLORE – from any show, you’ll see the cast, get access to bonus videos on YouTube, purchase soundtracks or DVDs from Amazon, and get recommendations for similar shows you might like.
  • BROWSE – check out TV’s best bets this week, four-star movies, or the upcoming college basketball games.  We’ve created Collections of Academy Award winners, the best movies from the Sundance Film Festival, and AFI’s Top 100.  With our video on demand partners Netflix, Blockbuster, and Amazon, you can watch those movies now.  When you find your favorite ways to browse, mark them as favorites and you’ll be able to return to them quickly.
  • DISCOVER – at the top of most screens you’ll find the Discovery Bar.  This bar displays TV shows, movies, web videos, collections, categories, favorites, and recommendations.  In designing this area, our goal was to delight users with “ah-ha” moments – when a desired show or movie is spotted and then recorded or watched.

And because we listen to our users, we added often-requested features to TiVo Premiere:

  • A VIDEO WINDOW appears in corner, playing the recording or live TV channel you are watching.  You can pause the video or hide the video window at any time.
  • The MY SHOWS list, which includes all of your recorded and downloaded shows, now shows how much of your hard disk is currently filled.
  • The ADVANCE button on the remote will fast-forward 30 seconds at a time if you want to breeze through commercials.

All of this is really just the beginning for the TiVo Premiere box and the next revolution in TV.  Never before have you been able with just one box to get all your favorite shows, movies, web videos, and music on your HDTV with our easy-to-use interface and remote control.  There are millions of choices, and we make it easy to find exactly what will delight you the most.  Our interface is written in Adobe Flash, so you can just imagine the new functionality we will add later this year.

Give TiVo Premiere a try, and let me know what you think – we love hearing from our users.  Your feedback will make TiVo’s products even better.

Margret Schmidt is Vice President of User Experience for TiVo Inc, and has been responsible for the design of TiVo products since 2001.  She has a 2006 Primetime Emmy® Award for the TiVo Service.  Follow her at http://twitter.com/tivodesign

17 Responses to "TiVo All Dolled Up"

  1. Mark PUgh says:

    I have been a Tivo customer since version 1. I owned the original “HAL-9000″ 14-hour TIvo, the short-lived (and supported) DirectTivo, and currently the Series 3 Tivo. I can honestly say that I have been a Tivo devotee and evangelist for most of the last 10 years.

    All I can say about the most recent announcement of the Tivo Premiere and its new user interface is “Really… that’s it? That’s all you’ve got?. It took you guys 4+ years of development since the last major product release to come up with this?” There is nothing revolutionary here. Most of the features described in the press conference are already available on the Series 3 Tivo. As for the UI update… yes it looks moderately better, but any UI that has me seeing a little swirly “please wait” icon between almost every transition is a non-starter. If the UI is based on Flash then I imagine much of the content (including thumbnails, etc. is coming from the Internet.) What happens when the internet connection is slow or down?

    Two of my key frustrations with the current UI are its speed and the fact that the menus are not full HD. It looks like you’ve solved one of those, but made the other worse. Your recent demonstration of the UI at the NYC press conference proved this. Waiting for all the thumbnails and partner logos/icons to appear when transitioning between screens seems agonizingly slow.

    Recently I had been seriously considering abandoning my Tivo and its monthly service fee in favor of my Windows Media Center and its very speedy UI/free EPG. I put off making the transition until your announcement about revolutionizing the DVR once again. It looks like you’ve made my decision for me.

  2. Jemaleddin says:

    Just curious: in terms of features relating to access to media – whether in Now Playing/My Shows, Netflix, what have you – is there a big difference between this and the HD Series 3 TiVo? I just bought an XL (still haven’t gotten the cable company to get the cablecard working – sigh) and I feel like it does everything the Premiere does except with less polish. Yes? No?

  3. Robert Biro says:

    You did not announce a new TiVo as well as a separate new HD UI. That is an incredibly misleading statement.
    The only way to get the new UI is to purchase a new TiVo Premiere.
    If you were announcing a new UI, then I would expect it on my Series3 in the coming weeks.

  4. Billy Gooch says:

    I have been rooting for TiVo since day one so of course I was looking forward to yesterday’s announcement. As a cable subscriber with a HD TiVo I am currently satisfied. But unfortunately I don’t see a Premier purchase anytime soon. Until now I thought of TiVo as the best set top box available. I didn’t miss TWC’s Start Over/Look Back or VOD. While the tuning adapter solution for switched digital video (SDV) channels has been reported to be buggy I certainly didn’t hold it against TiVo nor that multi-room viewing was collapsing due to TWC’s hyper deployment of broadcast flags. But moving forward I must say Boxee Beta for IPTV is impressive and a look at the next TWC tru2way DVR when it is deployed with MRV now looks like possible alternative solutions.

  5. Devon says:

    It’s really unfortunate Series-3 TiVos — HD devices — are forever left without an HD UI. I have to wonder how much the decision to build the UI in Flash has to do with the performance issues surrounding running the new UI on Series-3 TiVos. Flash is notoriously slow on slower hardware.

  6. brennok says:

    Are there any changes to the to do list screen showing conflicts or more information on shows that won’t be recorded and why?

    Also with the new remote support multiple Tivo addresses like the previous remotes so that you could have more than one Tivo in the same room?

  7. I’d be willing to give TiVo Premiere a try – but only if you made it less onerous to do so. I purchased a TiVo HD about a year back, and also purchased product lifetime service – a total of about $650. The cheapest upgrade path to Premiere will set me back about $500. There’s simply nothing that compelling in the Premiere that would justify an expenditure of that size: no built-in SDV support, no Tru2Way support, no reasonable multi-room viewing system that isn’t ham-strung by cable operators’ increasing tendency to mark all records “copy never”, no co-operative scheduling between multiple units, just a pretty UI. A pretty UI isn’t going to address those significant shortcomings with TiVo.

  8. James says:

    Congratulations on your new product! I expect the flash based interface will be able to grow with the company in the coming years.

    I am disappointed nothing was done to address the many issues the Series 3 and HD have with regard to Grey Screens on analog channels, QAM mapping, Switch Digital Video failures, over coming the CCI byte 0×02 with a streaming solution, or with misc rebooting caused by the cable card/tuning adapter combination. These issues have been ongoing for almost a year and we haven’t see any updates to address this, nor have we seen or heard anything from TiVo that the new S4 will overcome these issues.

  9. John says:

    How about adding a Skype interface, so you can do Video calling from your living room.

  10. Alex says:

    I must say, I’ve been a TiVo user for a couple years now and I can’t wait to see the new HD user interface. I’m sure the interface is going to be boss. Woohoo for upgrading to Premiere!

  11. Margret Schmidt says:

    Thank you for your comments. The initial comparisons listed between TiVo HD/Series3 and the Premiere/Series4 are fair considering that at launch you will get the same content providers on both boxes. The new UI on TiVo Premiere integrates the content in a new way, leading you to discover things you hadn’t thought to look for. The UI was created in Flash because it allows us to develop more quickly and with more flexibility. Unfortunately, Flash doesn’t run on our old boxes, so the HD user interface won’t be available on Series3/HD. Premiere also has new features, many of which TiVo users themselves have requested including the disk space meter and the video window within the menus. Some of the new features, such as Pandora Internet radio, may make it to Series3/HD as we continue to update that platform, but the Premiere will receive the majority of our future developments because it is more capable to do so.

  12. brennok says:

    First off let me say I pre-ordered 2 Premiere XL units to replace 2 Tivo HDs since I had a friend who wanted those anyway and have been using TiVo since the Sony SVR-2000. I really hope the Premiere is only a new starting point. While it does address some of the popular requests dating back to the Series 1 such as picture in the menus which thankfully we can turn off and disk space meter which hopefully we can turn off.. It doesn’t begin to address many of the shortcomings that now plague TiVo. Some of these are not due to TiVo’s fault but it doesn’t appear that the Premiere has done anything to address them either. The things TiVo can fix and improve don’t seem to get done.

    While I am sure some of these new features will be great, it will do little towards the reason I own multiple TiVos and that is to record TV. Where are the additional tuners or the ability to pool tuners? Where is the ability to stream shows to other rooms for those who can’t transfer due to the copy once flag which is a bigger and bigger issue? Why do I still need to figure out the best order to put my shows in when TiVo could walk me through the process even just on the website? Why can’t I add season passes for shows farther than 12 days out even if they don’t schedule the recording until then like the Netflix coming soon list?

  13. daveak says:

    I know it does not seem to do much more than the Series 3 at this point, but remember, when the Series 3 was released (aside from the HD output and cable cards) it did not really do much more than the Series 2. And look what the Series 3 does today. This is a box to build on and you cannot expect it to do everything you imagine on the first day they are released, think about what this box could be doing in two years – it has the horse power and software that can run on it to do much more than the Series 3 ever could.

  14. Jay says:

    Good luck with the Premiere. Maybe you should overhaul your support department next and maybe after that you’ll fix some of the TivoHD remaining bugs but probably not because you have a new revenue stream now.

    Thanks for the good times, Tivo. How the mighty have fallen.
    http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?t=444679

  15. John says:

    Well, I have to say that I like the aggregation of the content and the new UI. I think the more polished look will serve Tivo well. I did notice that there are not any ads on the screens unless you count movie and TV show links. I think this is a really good thing. Tivo should create a premium box (premiere) that does not have ads and a free version that does have them. An ad supported box would go a long way to getting Tivo into every household.

    However, I do not like the fact that there are only 2 tuners, no DLNA, and no HULU. I also do not like the fact that I do not hear anything about viewing content on your own network and being able to use cooperative scheduling with your other Tivo boxes. I sure hope that these features are ones that will come in the near future.

  16. Chris Kelly says:

    I watched the video of the Premiere’s release. Despite TiVo’s FAQ portion of the website touting a (much needed) more robust processor, the interface actually seems much slower then my current S3. Can you explain why that is? Also, will my search information still be accessible if the internet is temporarily down (ala the S3′s 2 week memory buffer)?

  17. Steve Auerbach says:

    It’s about User Interface Design:

    On my Tivo remote control I press the UP button to go to a higher numbered channel

    On the TiVo screen I press the DOWN arrow to go to a higher numbered channel.

    Is consistency really the hobgoblin of little minds?

    See Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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