Talk to any TiVo owner and it’s clear they love the things. They rave about how functional it is. The user interface is what makes the pricey box and its monthly fee worth it, they say. You could call that DVR from the cable company a “TiVo,” but you could also try to pass off Hydrox as Oreos, they’ll add with a sneer.

(Full personal disclosure: I have a TiVo. I also didn’t last two days with a Time-Warner DVR box when my last TiVo died.)

TiVo’s not perfect however. While there is a web interface for managing recoded shows and OnePasses (formerly Season Passes), it ’s pretty kludgey, especially considering the overall quality of set top box’s UI. The company also has an app for iPhones and Androids, which offers much better functionality than the company’s website. There’s no web-based scheduling and streaming option that matches the polish that TiVo’s users expect from their DVRs.

But the company is attempting to answer those concerns — and
allowing streaming of your recordings, to boot — with the launch of TiVo Online. Logging onto through the site, using the same user name and password as the tivo.com site, gives a much richer experience when it comes to scheduling and managing the recording of your programs. And yes, if you’re someone who wants to binge watch all those episodes of Maury you’ve been hoarding on your DVR, but you’d rather do it in front of your computer, you can. The eagle-eyed among you might notice that there’s no 30-second jump button, but that’s because TiVo Online does it for you. It seamlessly skips over those pitches for prescription medications, movies you probably don’t want to see and for-profit colleges. It’s as impressive as it sounds.

That being said, TiVo’s the kind of company that you want to love…but it’s also the kind of company that does things that makes you furrow your brow and shake your head. Streaming comes via Flash, so if you’re someone that’s eradicated it from your system you’ll have to decide if the convenience of TiVo Online is worth it. If you you’re security minded (and having to deal with Flash didn’t put you off), logging in isn’t secure and you’ll have to add that “s” in https yourself. However, the new browser tab the site opens to stream, having an extension that forces https will cause the connection to choke and you’ll have to disable it.

You also can’t expect to stream anywhere. It’ll only work on the same wifi network the TiVo Premiere or Romio’s a part of. (If you use the iOS app, this is something you’ve been dealing with for awhile now.) TiVo’s saying that it will allow streaming to networks outside the device’s home in the future, but chances are certain programming will be blocked — even more maddening is that some shows can’t even be streamed within the home wifi network to begin with.

Granted, TV copyrights are like a legal minefield and TiVo’s trying to make the best of the situation it’s been given, but these are strikes against a great device and what could have been an amazing service.

TiVo’s teased at a true cloud-based DVR service (think: a legal Aereo) to be released announced sometime next month. I’m hoping TiVo Online is just something to tide the company’s fans over until then.

Photo by bobafred/flickr. Screencaps by the author

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