No doubt about it folks, the nature of our TV viewing is slated to undergo some serious changes in the coming months. The next generation Apple TV and similar devices from Logitech, Sony, Roku and BoxeeBox permit streaming of video over the ‘Net, so it’s just a matter of time before the Internet replaces cable—well sort of. With these new Internet TV boxes on the horizon, the time is rapidly approaching when the only thing you’ll need cable for, will be (ironically) to provide an Internet connection so you can get your TV over the net.
As usual, it’s the Apple device that’s garnering the lion’s share of the coverage, and it is pretty cool, especially if you’re already a an Apple user. You can stream anything from your desktop iTunes account to your Apple TV, including photos, music and videos. The box costs $99, Netflix charges a minimum of $8.99 a month to subscribe to the streaming service, and Apple will charge you .99 cents to view a program within 48 hours from iTunes.
The other devices have pretty compelling cases in their favor too though. The primary competitor currently going head-to-head with Apple TV is Roku, with models available at $59 and $79. Roku matches Apple TV's Netflix and Flickr support, plus adds Hulu, Amazon, Pandora, and MLB.TV. For shows not available on Hulu, Roku users can rent or buy them on Amazon's service, which has matched Apple's 99-cent pricing on ABC and Fox shows.
However, given the upcoming Hulu Plus promises to deliver all current-season episodes of most ABC, Fox, and NBC shows for a flat $9.99 monthly fee, Roku programming will be a lot cheaper than Apple TV. There, you’re expected to buy shows a la carte. At 99 cents each, that's just 10 episodes a month on iTunes compared to an unlimited number on Hulu during the same month.
And while that would seem to stack the deck in Roku’s favor, when Apple’s AirPlay launches in November with the iOS 4.2 update, users will be able to share content from an iOS 4.2 device to Apple TV. This means your iPad or iPhone can control your desktop music library and stream it to your Apple TV simultaneously. You can also have friends come over and share videos or photos from their iOS 4.2 device.
Still, this fight is far from over, as we said before, Logitech, Sony and BoxeeBox all have devices coming in the next month or so as well. Bottom line though, cable’s TV monopoly is very close to being broken.