Monday, November 02, 2009

Verizon FIOS Disappoints … Again.

When I heard FIOS was coming to my town, I got in line.  I couldn’t wait to get what I felt was the best technology in the market.  True, I’m no fan of Comcast.  Competition is good.

The core technology that gets me my signal?  Fine, can’t complain.  As far as I know it’s even faster than I had before.  I have no complaints.

It’s the extras.  The user experience.  For instance?  Take the DVR option.  I have several TVs, and a common scenario is to start watching some primetime show, like a Grey’s Anatomy or something, downstairs in the main family room with HD.  But often my wife will say “Can we finish watching this upstairs?”  Verizon has a Home Sharing option that allows exactly this.  Very handy.

Except for the limitations.  Like, for instance, it won’t “downscale”.  So with a standard tv upstairs I have to record all my programs in standard (even though the box itself is a HD box) if I ever want to stream them.  I’ve learned to live with that. It also can’t be programmed from the remote boxes, so if you finish watching most of your programs upstairs on the bedroom tv you can’t just hit Delete – you have to remember, next time you’re downstairs, to purge all the old shows you’re done with.  An annoyance, but you can live with it.

The latest disappointment though comes with the new Media Manager for Mac.  I’ve got all the family photos on a Mac Mini (which, also, is connected up to the HD tv in my family room).  That’s also where I rip the kids’ DVDs, and manage all my iTunes stuff.  So when they said “Run this software and your iTunes media will show up on your FIOS boxes” I thought, “Awesome.”

Except for one small problem – it only works on the DVR box.  In a “Home Sharing” setup, you only have 1 DVR box in the house, and the rest are just dumb satellite player boxes.

See the problem?  In order to share recorded television shows, you need – are required to have – exactly one Home Sharing DVR.  If you had a DVR box in every room, you could get Media Manager content on every DVR box.  But then you couldn’t share recorded tv programming!

That’s what bugs me.  I appreciate having to work the kinks out of the system.  But here you’ve got a clear cut case of Verizon setting up mutually exclusive features, and then leaving it up to the customer to realize that.   I’m not even misinterpreting it, either, as I had a lengthy conversation with Verizon Support over Twitter when I discovered this problem and they confirmed that yes, the options are mutually exclusive.  Get multiple DVRs to share media manager content, or get one DVR to share recorded tv shows, but not both.

I hope they get some of these major problems worked out.  I doubt it, given the underlying architectural problem (namely, the remote boxes are without a hard drive and thus doomed to be brain dead).  But, still.  Hope remains.