Skype On Tivo Revisited

As I’ve mentioned previously, more than once, the recent release of SkypeKit seems like an opportunity for a company like Tivo to up their game. Adding video calling capability to Tivo seems like a natural extension of the devices functionality.

If you have a Tivo unit it’s already connected to your TV. It’s most likely already on your network and making use of your broadband to fetch guide info and download movies. I know that we use our TivoHD units to watch Netflix streams and download from Amazon’s Unboxed service. You might already be using it to stream music and view the family photos on your TV.

Yep, video calling on the big screen would certainly be a logical next step.

With this in mind I ventured forth to the Tivo Community User Forums where I proposed the idea. This forum is not run by Tivo, but rather the user community itself. One respondent was quick to point out that the user community has offered up many ideas over the years, but rarely has the company acted upon such suggestions.

Whether Tivo can be motivated to act upon the availability of SkypeKit is one question…whether their current hardware is up to the task wholly another.

It happens that we have a pair of TivoHD units, which are the third generation of the Tivo platform. I’m given to understand that Tivo has engineered their hardware to keep costs low and take best advantage of dedicated hardware for media handling where possible.

The TivoHD was actually introduced in July of 2007 and is based upon Broadcom BCM7038 processor. This chip is capable of 400 Dhrystone MIPS, or about the equivalent of a Pentium II running at 233 MHz. Clearly, the heavy lifting of handling the media is left to dedicated hardware acceleration.

The latest generation of Tivo, known as Tivo Premiere, are built around the Broadcom BCM7413 running at 400 MHz. This dual core chip is rated for 1100 Dhrystone MIPS, or about the equivalent of a Pentium III running at 600 MHz.

There was an interesting comment trail in the wake of one writers critique of the latest Tivo hardware. It was noted that the original XBOX was based upon a Pentium III at 733 MHz, which is should help us to understand what Tivo Premiere ought to be capable of undertaking.

Engadget also noted that the Tivo Premiere has more than twice the CPU grunt of the older Series 3.There has been a lot of chatter about how the older Series 3 Tivo units cannot run the latest firmware. They simply don’t have the processor power to manage the new Flash-based user interface.

All of this simply helps us to understand what might be possible…if Tivo decided to take the initiative and leverage SkypeKit within Tivo Premiere. I suspect that I’m in the majority when I say that I won’t buy a new HDTV in the $3,000 range just to gain access to Skype video calling, but i would upgrade from our TivoHD systems to newer Tivo Premiere units if they were SkypeKit enabled.