Deja Vu All Over Again: DirecTV cancels their PC tuner card

In the mid 90s, Microsoft collaborated with DirecTV to bring out a tuner card for a Windows PC.

The idea was that it could turn the desktop PC into a living room media center.

Then WebTV and TiVo convinced the industry that the PC as designed wasn’t the best way to consume TV on the “big screen”. The team at WebTV that I worked with and my friends at TiVo instead built integrated DVRs that had the dual tuners, conditional access, large disks. UltimateTV was a product we built with DirecTV to bring the best of the internet, DVR and satellite programming. The “PC” was too big, too ugly, too noisy and too expensive. And they didn’t look good connected to interlace monitors at the time

So the PC-tuner card was put on ice.

Then it came back again and was announced a few years ago.

Well today, it looks like DirecTV killed that PC-tuner card program again.

Here’s the thing. The defintion of television is changing. TV started with broadcast. Then cable. Then we saw DVRs and VOD. But internet streaming has arrived. It’s not about the box or proprietary formats. We should move beyond that.

I like what Netflix is doing. They have an API and companies like Boxee, Roku, Microsoft and others can disribute Netflix. Netflix isn’t trying to control the end to end system. They are letting individuals and companies innovate on top and around them. That’s smart.

DirecTV needs to do the same thing. They should let 3rd parties build compatible hardware and deliver their content everywhere.