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TiVo goes mobile with new free service

The DVR maker unveils its TiVoToGo service, which lets subscribers transfer programming to their laptops.

TiVo isn't just for couch potatoes anymore.

The box that has become synonymous with digital recording of television programs now has a mobile companion, the TiVoToGo service, for more restless viewers.

The service, announced Monday, allows subscribers to transfer programs to laptops--as long as copyright protections are in place.

Alviso, Calif.-based TiVo, the maker of the digital video recorder, is now pushing a no-cost automatic software update to its standalone Series 2 devices, except those belonging to subscribers with DVD recorders. The company plans to get TiVoToGo to DVD recorder subscribers later this year.

"Consumers don't want to be tied to their living room to watch their favorite entertainment," said Matt Wisk, chief marketing officer at TiVo. "With TiVoToGo, subscribers can take their favorite shows with them to enjoy on business trips or family vacations."

But subscribers won't be able to watch just any program on their laptops. TiVo has designed the to-go service to shun content that uses Macrovision copy protection technology, including pay-per-view and video-on-demand programming and commercial DVDs.

To transfer television programs onto a laptop, a subscriber must install the no-cost TiVo Desktop software on the portable computer.

The system encrypts the program during the transfer, so subscribers must use a password to decrypt and play back the show.

The automatic distribution of the TiVoToGo service is being conducted according to a scheduled rollout process. Subscribers who want high priority on the distribution list can go to the TiVo Web site to sign up. The TiVo Desktop software supports only Windows XP and Windows 2000 operating systems.

At this week's Consumer Electronics Show, TiVo plans to announce partnerships with companies that are developing new technologies and products designed to work with TiVoToGo.