The next generation
This looks like quite a big deal. Virgin Media (VM) has launched what it's calling "The UK's first next-generation entertainment platform". This takes the form of a new set-top-box powered by TiVo, which will connect to the web via the Virgin network and provide what looks like an unprecedented level of access to video-on-demand (VOD) and web-based programming.
We just got off the phone with VM and were corrected in our assumption that this is equivalent to Google TV. While the latter aims to bring a PC-like experience to the TV, Virgin's new platform aims to enhance the existing TV experience with online content and an app store. We were also reminded that Google itself doesn't provide content.
Of course VM's biggest competitor is Sky. The key differentiators in this context revolve around VOD, specifically the speed and flexibility of delivery. Sky produces a lot more of its own content but what makes VM unique is that it has its own network. This, in principle, allows it to allocate a lot more bandwidth to the delivery of video content.
So this new platform will allow instant streaming of VOD content, as well as rapid downloading onto the 1TB of storage provided. Furthermore the 10Mbps cable modem it comes with apparently doesn't eat into the rest of your broadband bandwidth - the 10 megs is dedicated to the platform.
The integration of TiVo brings an established internet TV platform, and should assist with the search and discovery of what is already a bewildering choice of content. There will also be an app store that will offer apps unique to TiVo.
"This is a landmark moment in the UK's digital revolution and vividly illustrates how Virgin Media is the only company who can provide the ultimate digital lifestyle," Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at VM.
"For the first time, viewers will have a truly personalised viewing experience so they can get the most out of the wonderful worlds of the internet and TV all in one place. We're really excited to bring our customers what is just the first of successive generations of transformational services based on this unique TiVo-powered platform."
The new platform will become available in the middle of this month, costing £199 + £40 installation + £26.50 per month when taken with a Virgin phone line (£32.50 without). It's launching with two tuners, but that will be upgraded to three early next year. You can find out more about it here, and we've asked to be able to review it, so fingers crossed.