Does anyone out there actually use TiVo’s podcasting client? I saw it appear on both my boxes after a system update around six months ago or so and putzed around with it then; it felt raw and unpolished, so I figured I’d check in again a little bit later to see if the folks at TiVo had made any progress. I just tried the application out again, though, and have to say it’s just awful.

When you’re listening to a podcast, you can’t pause it, nor can you fast-forward or rewind within it; it seems like all these options would be available to you given that you’re listening on a freakin’ TiVo. If you want to walk away from a podcast, you have to just stop it, and then the only option available to you later is to restart it and listen from the beginning. What? Could this break the TiVo playback model any more? (Fascinatingly, a TiVo employee revealed how little they get it in a post to the TiVo Community forums, where he said that the fast-forward, rewind, and pause functions weren’t available because most podcast servers don’t support them. Do the television broadcast networks support these functions? Of course they don’t — TiVo invented the technology that allows users to layer them atop television, but is acting like the same model wouldn’t work with podcasting.)

It’s also difficult to listen to podcasts that aren’t in the list that TiVo provides — you have to enter the URL manually, using the directional arrows and select button to type out each character of the address. There’s no option to use one of the many podcast directories to find the one you want, nor does TiVo provide any handy shortcuts for commonly-entered strings within the URL-entry interface (things like “.com” and whatnot, strings that have shortcuts in the interface in which you enter your email address during Guided Setup). There’s also no function that actually allows you to download and store podcasts as they become available so that you can listen to at your leisure; instead, each time you listen you have to download the podcast anew.

The whole thing is clumsy, and the interface feels like it’s doing everything it can to dissuade you from actually using it. Honestly, I’d expect more from TiVo than this piece of crap.