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April 26, 2006

Yahoo offers free software personal video recorder for Windows

I’ve mentioned software PVRs before – they’re add-on applications that give your Windows XP PC more or less the equivalent functionality of an XP Media Center PC or for that matter, a dedicated hardware PVR like TiVo. Now Yahoo has stirred things up by offering a software PVR for free:

Yahoo has released a beta version of software that turns a PC into a digital video recorder.

The software, Yahoo Go for TV, is free to download. After the software is installed, people plug their computer into their television’s video and audio input connections. The computer can then record and play back shows on the TV just like with a standalone DVR. Consumers can also play DVDs, music, photos or other downloaded content.

The cost of a few cables and TV tuner card, in comparison with the hundreds of dollars being shelled out for DVD players or DVRs, could lure consumers away from DVR competitors like TiVo. And many industry leaders see TV-computer combinations as the portal for reaching consumers.

The package, acquired from startup Meedio, seems to have the expected functions including television listings and also incorporates other Yahoo properties like the Flickr photo sharing service.

Microsoft said recently that its Windows XP Media Center software is outselling the standard edition of the software, and Hewlett-Packard announced last year that it is developing technology to let high-definition televisions directly access digital content from home computers.

And there’s the rub, of course. You don’t need Yahoo Go for TV if you already have a Media Center PC. Still, it might be attractive for owners of an XP machine that would like to turn it to home entertainment use, so it’s interesting to check out the early reviews and comments.

Dave Zatz has many screen shots but will do a review later

Eirik Solheim has a detailed review which is complicated a little by the fact that he is in Norway which technically isn’t supported. On the other hand, he’s very familiar with Meedio. His net is that very few of the good features of Meedio made the transition to Yahoo, at least in this version, and:

This is what’s going to happen

The existing Meedio community will flee to MediaPortal. This free and open source solution will outperform Yahoo! Go for TV in all areas for the advanced user. With some plugins, the Democracy player in the background, TVTonic and some simple tweaks you get loads of online content for that solution.

For the regular user, Windows Media Center Edition will give you a solid core functionality and huge amounts of content from the net through Online Spotlight.

Thomas Hawk sees no advantages over Media Center, although he may do a full review later.

Dan Ackerman at CNET:

When trying to initially install Yahoo Go for TV, we couldn’t get it to recognize our TV tuner card, even when we swapped in a card on the very short list of supported TV tuner cards. We’re currently troubleshooting the TV tuner card issue, so stay tuned for a full review of Yahoo Go for TV later in the week.

Update: After much installing and uninstalling of hardware, we got one of the TV tuner devices supported by Yahoo Go for TV up and running. Via an external Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-USB2 TV tuner box, we were able to watch live TV and download a local program guide through the Yahoo Go for TV setup interface.

I still think there’s a place for a software PVR on plain Windows XP systems, but it doesn’t look like Yahoo’s current offering is it.

Posted at 11:44 pm. Filed under Companies, Software, Software PVR, Yahoo

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