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Monday, January 12, 2009

TiVo Redesigns Search Function, Wants to be the 'Google of TV'

By Jose Fermoso Email


A little less than two years after TiVo debuted its swivel video search engine, it is now killing it in favor of a better integrated search whose biggest improvement is visual.

Announced this week at CES 2009, the new TV search works similarly to the search bar in the Firefox address browser. You type in the first few letters of a show in the 'discovery bar' and relevant recommendations of shows on TV satellite and broadband networks come up. At the same time, you get a nice looking new column arrangement of information about a show, including episode description, rating, and relevant art.

The new appearance, according to TiVo reps, was created to fit to the longer length of HDTV's. The old swivel search had no visuals and didn't provide immediate information that could help a user choose efficiently. Still, this is a feature that is most helpful during passive browsing – if you're the type that already knows what you want, the new search will look much nicer but it won’t make a huge difference.

Already, some are saying that the search function is not fast at all but TiVo reps promise they're working on boosting that speed. That’s an important development that is critical if the company really wants to make this feature the "Google of TV search."


There are three other updates with search that are interesting. Results now come up through the most popular of the day automatically, and you can also browse shows by the season. This is especially helpful for serial shows like The West Wing, where I’m constantly confused about where it falls in line.

But the one I like the most is the Wish List feature, which takes a show that is not currently available anywhere and holds a search on your behalf so that when it’s finally offered, it will record it. It will be even better if you end up forgetting about it and will show up one day like a present you didn’t expect. I will be adding the “Rebels of Oakland” HBO documentary from a few years ago because I can never find it anywhere. C'mon HBO, you can have three docs about the Red Sox in two years, but can't manage to release the Rebels? Get on it, please.

TiVo's search update is in now in beta and available to Series 3 and HD TiVos.