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TiVo adds Web video--but there's a catch

TiVo Desktop 2.6 software allows TiVo users to stream downloaded Web videos from their PC to their DVR.

TiVo Web Video screenshot
TiVo Desktop Plus 2.6 software lets you view Web videos on your TV--but they need to be downloaded to a PC first.

TiVo has added the ability to view downloadable Web videos on the company's DVRs, making good on its announcement at January's Consumer Electronics Show. The update will allow Web videos such as video podcasts to be downloaded with the same Season Pass functionality used by TiVo viewers to record their favorite TV shows. But don't expect to just punch in a URL or an RSS feed into the TiVo remote. Videos must first be downloaded to your PC's hard drive, after which they'll be transferred to your TiVo via your home network. That's a departure from Amazon Unbox videos, the Rhapsody subscription music service, and TiVo's forthcoming YouTube service, all of which are accessible online straight through TiVo's onscreen interface without the need to have a PC running elsewhere in the home. (By contrast, the Apple TV can pull down PC-free video podcasts, so long as they're indexed on the iTunes Store.)

The Web video functionality requires TiVo's Desktop Plus 2.6 software, available for download today ($25 for new users, or a free upgrade for users of the existing software). For now, it's a Windows-only solution, though TiVo says that the company is continuing "to work with Roxio on delivering equivalent functionality on the Mac platform." With any luck, perhaps the new Desktop Plus software will also swat those TiVoToGo bugs that have been afflicting some TiVo users for the past several months.