Amazon and TiVo today launched a new feature to allow TiVo subscribers to purchase items they see on TV. It’s another move by TiVo to become more than just a DVR, and its another move by Amazon beyond the PC and onto the television. But how much longer will Amazon need TiVo?
In its first incarnation, the “product purchase” feature will use on-screen menus to prompt TiVo subscribers to buy products (CDs, DVDs and books) that are being pimped on talk shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Daily Show. Future versions will offer the purchase option for commercials and even product placements.
I’m starting to wonder if Amazon is just using TiVo as one big, willing test bed. The two companies’ previous partnership to deliver Unbox movie downloads wasn’t exactly a raging success, but Amazon learned from it and is now coming out with its Video On Demand streaming service that will be plugged directly into Sony TVs and other set-top boxes.
Now, Amazon can learn what it needs to about teevee-commerce through its limited partnership with TiVo. It can work out the bugs before rolling out a bigger, better in-house service over which it has more control over and that it can roll out to all of its set-top relationships.
Unfortunately TiVo needs Amazon. With cable companies and satellite companies offering DVRs to consumers like candy, TiVo needs to differentiate itself to add value. But TiVo’s moves like this one and delivering YouTube content just keep it a half-step ahead of the competition, and that half-step will disappear as everyone starts offering the same services. Services like Amazon shopping on your TV.