YouTube videos will be coming to high-end TiVo DVRs soon. In a brief announcement, TiVo said that YouTube video access would be available on the company's latest TiVo HD and TiVo Series3 models "later this year." (Owners of older Series2 TiVos look to be out of luck.) On-screen access to YouTube videos joins a host of other Internet-delivered entertainment options on TiVo, including Amazon Unbox video rentals, Rhapsody's subscription music service, access to Photobucket and Picasa photo galleries, TiVoCast Web videos, podcasts, and Internet radio. While ancillary to TiVo's primary mission of recording and playing back TV shows, the inclusion of such Web-friendly features helps the company delineate its products from the wide range of "free" DVRs that are available from local cable operators. (Disclaimer: CNET is one of several content partners that provides videos to TiVo's TiVoCast service.)
As for YouTube, its appearance on TiVo may be the first of many new venues. The TiVo news was timed to coincide with YouTube's announcement that it's expanding its APIs to allow third parties more direct access to the service. That said, YouTube is already available on quite a few home and mobile gadgets. Aside from the high-profile Apple TV, you can also find YouTube on your TV with the Netgear Digital Entertainer HD--as well as any product with a full-function (Flash-enabled) Web browser, such as the Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation 3. In the handheld world, the once unique YouTube offering on the iPhone has since been joined by phones from Helio and the Nokia N810 Internet Tablet. Also, the new Skyfire browser promises to bring YouTube (and any other Flash video site) to a wide range of Windows Mobile phones.
Having played with YouTube on some of these devices, we'll say this: Yes, it's cool to have access to YouTube on your TV or on your phone--but you may actually come away a bit disappointed in the end. Because YouTube has such a social component--sharing cool or funny videos with your friends--the experience can often be a bit isolating when viewed on a device without ready access to your e-mail, instant messaging, or social network of choice. You know the feeling: a million channels to watch, and nothin's on.