Searching for the Future of Television – Technology Review

Google had good reason to sweat the details. Since the mid-1990s, several costly efforts to bring the Web to the TV have fallen flat. Hybrids such as WebTV Networks, which disappeared into Microsoft in the late 1990s, suffered from myriad problems, including poky network connections, underpowered hardware, and clunky user interfaces. But even if they had worked better, these earlier endeavors would still have suffered from a bigger problem: their developers seemed to forget that most people hadn't bought their televisions to browse the Web. They just wanted to watch TV.

They still do. But now new technologies and an increase in TV-friendly Web content are swelling the variety of programming choices well beyond what's available through their coaxial cable, satellite dish, or DVD player. As the Internet makes inroads into the last great mass medium, millions of people are starting to program their own niche television experiences. For as little as $60, new devices and software from TV makers, startups such as Roku and Boxee, and giants such as Apple have made it a snap to deliver online content to any set. In addition to what's available online at no charge, programming can be streamed to TV sets from Netflix for $8 a month or from Amazon Video on Demand starting at $1 per episode.


A little holiday weekend reading for you!

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