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TiVo upgrade shares PC content

The company releases a software upgrade that will allow its TiVo Series2 digital video recorders to tap music files, digital photos and other content stored on a home PC.

TiVo wants to be the hub for spreading digital content throughout the home.

The San Jose, Calif., company on Tuesday made available a new software upgrade that will allow its TiVo Series2 digital video recorders to tap content stored on a home PC.

As previously reported, the Home Media Option software will let the TiVo boxes access and distribute content such as music files or digital photos stored on the hard drives of Apple Computer's Macs or on Windows PCs, streaming them to a television set or stereo via wired or wireless home networks.

The $99 upgrade, available from TiVo's Web site, will also accommodate online scheduling, allowing Series2 owners to set their machines to record programs via the site, the company said.

The Home Media Option highlights manufacturers' growing interest in the market for sharing content among devices in the home. Products such as the Microsoft Media Center PC, sold by companies such as Hewlett-Packard, position the PC at the center of the home network.

Media Center PC software--a special version of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system--adds a second interface for accessing content such as music, photos and DVDs. Media PC owners can also watch TV and record programs to the PC's hard drive using digital video-recording features similar to TiVo's.

Meanwhile, Intel and Microsoft have also begun efforts to jump-start the development of a host of new devices that connect to home networks and share multimedia files with PCs. Ultimately, some of these new devices will be able to show television pictures, the companies have said.

But TiVo's Home Media Option bucks that strategy, positioning the TiVo box as the gatekeeper for digital content present on the home network. In this case, the PC becomes more of a data repository for files. TiVo's new software streams data, eliminating the need to reserve storage space on the device itself, which is otherwise dedicated to storing TV programs.

"Our approach recognizes that the PC or Mac may be the best place to store, organize, manage and protect your digital media, but the living room is the best place to enjoy it," Brodie Keast, senior vice president and general manager of TiVo Service, said in a statement.

The standard fee for the Home Media Option is $99. TiVo customers can also add the new software to a second or third Series2 box, allowing them to display content in different rooms on different TV screens. TiVo charges an additional $49 fee to use the software on each extra box.