Sunday, August 29, 2004

Business 2.0 - Web Article - Saving TiVo

Business 2.0 - Web Article - Printable Version - Saving TiVo "There's at least one problem with that scenario, however. His name is Arthur van Hoff. He's an obscure but revered high priest of software coding. And he thinks he's devised a way to pull TiVo back from death's door.
In January, TiVo bought van Hoff's tiny startup, Strangeberry, for an undisclosed sum. Hardly anyone noticed. But for TiVo, the deal is shaping up as a masterstroke. Van Hoff is known in elite computing circles as one of Silicon Valley's most brilliant minds. Prickly? A bit. Nerdy? You bet. But, among other career highlights, van Hoff was one of the chief developers of Sun Microsystems's (SUNW) Java programming language, now seen as being among software's most momentous technical feats. Even Sun co-founder and industry legend Bill Joy calls van Hoff "a great programmer." Marimba founder Kim Polese, who worked with van Hoff at both Sun and Marimba, calls him a "giant in the software world."
More to the point for TiVo, van Hoff is an absolute nut for its technology. He owns five TiVo boxes. At Strangeberry, he and a fractious posse of coders put their minds to building the elusive dream machine that TiVo and every other convergence player has long sought: the single, elegant, indispensable device that will control all the elements of home entertainment, from computing to music to movies.
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Six months later, van Hoff wangled a meeting with more VCs, this time at Redpoint Ventures. Ramsay, TiVo's CEO and an engineer himself, dropped in as a casual observer; Redpoint was one of his investors. He was floored. "We had a meeting of the minds," Ramsay recalls. The acquisition came together within six months. If it ever troubled van Hoff that TiVo was bleeding, he isn't saying. "We really liked TiVo," he says. "Great product. Good karma. Great engineers."
So how does Strangeberry give TiVo a fighting chance? For starters, van Hoff and his team joined up and brought their coding wizardry. Far more important, of course, is the Strangeberry software and what it promises for TiVo.
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(Netflix has said it will put its catalog online next year, and TiVo CEO Ramsay is a Netflix director.)"

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