TiVo tries to walk back rumors of Stream dongle’s demise

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TiVo parent company Xperi this week attempted to walk back comments made by its chief executive that strongly indicated the company would move away from its flagship Android TV dongle as it continues a broader strategy toward software licensing agreements.

In a statement provided to TechHive columnist Jared Newman, a spokesperson for Xperi said the company was committed to providing support for users of its TiVo Stream 4K hardware and would continue to improve the hardware “based on consumer needs and feedback.”

Newman wrote that the spokesperson affirmed the Xperi subsidiary was “currently making hardware and will continue to do so,” and a company spokesperson clarified to the writer that it includes making additional Android TV hardware that could ship in the future.

The rumor mill began to circulate after Xperi chief executive Jon Kirchner told investors last week that the company’s strategy regarding TiVo had accelerated from creating its own brand of Android TV hardware integrated with its content discovery software toward one in which Xperi attempted to convince other hardware manufacturers to license its version of Android TV with the TiVo software built in.

The reason for the move was due to Google’s decision to launch a similar streaming hardware dongle that improved on Android TV by offering its own content discovery software. The new software, called Google TV, is expected to be rolled out more broadly to other streaming hardware and smart TVs that are certified by Google to run Android TV’s operating system.

The streaming dongle, called the Chromecast with Google TV, launched at a retail price of $50 — the same price Xperi was charging through a promotion for its TiVo Stream 4K.

“Last fall, Google came out and said that they intend to go beyond their core OS level offering and really get into the UX business,” Kirchner said. “In so doing it eclipses one’s ability to I think reasonably be an alternative that might otherwise live on their lower level platform.”

The translation is simple: Google and Xperi are chasing after the same audience with essentially the same strategy, and Kirchner thinks it will be hard to compete against Google in that space.

So it was understandable when bloggers, reporters and tech columnists quickly latched on to Kirchner’s comments: He essentially said there was no need to pursue a hardware strategy, because Google was already doing it. Furthermore, he said Xperi’s focus would now shift toward offering its Android TV ecosystem with the TiVo app installed to manufacturers of other hardware.

“That work is ongoing and continues very well, continue to have partner discussions that I think are quite engaged around it,” Kirchner said, adding, “We think we have a pretty unique solution that drives higher engagement, and therefore greater monetization for everybody involved in the ecosystem.”

Based on those comments, tech publications essentially declared the TiVo Stream 4K’s time to be up, even though — as The Desk pointed out — the device is still widely available through retail stores. More convincingly, those publications inferred through his comments that Xperi would likely move away from hardware toward building out a software-based ecosystem that could be licensed to other companies, in part because that’s been Xperi’s business model in the past, and their chief executive essentially said as much on a conference call.

If you want further proof that Xperi considers the TiVo Stream 4K to be a marginal part of its overall business, consider this: For more than a week, Xperi sat and watched as tech publications cast doubt over the future of the TiVo Stream 4K. Rather than issue a public statement challenging the narratives in their stories, allowed a tech publication to do damage control for them, providing him a single, vague statement and waiting even longer until his column was published.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said a spokesperson for Xperi had not commented on the future of its TiVo-branded Android TV hardware line. Although Newman’s column did not contain a direct quote from the spokesperson regarding Android TV hardware, he affirmed that the spokesperson said Xperi would continue to manufacture that kind of hardware.

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