When I was a kid the TV in our family room had an antenna built into the back. We moved houses when I was nine, and I remember fiddling with the dual telescoping antennas on that 19″ Panasonic until it pulled in satisfactory pictures on the three network channels. I think we got good reception on PBS and the local independent stations, too, but those weren't as important.
Now the TV in my living room is connected to about five million sources of always-ready content. The TiVo HD has a Comcast CableCard for cable reception and an Ethernet cable to suck down Internet content including YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand. A first-gen AppleTV box sits atop the TiVo, ready to stream iTunes content from Apple's servers or play videos, music and photos from an internal hard drive. And the new kid on the A/V rack, an Xbox 360 with Kinect, is all-too-eager to use my stored credit card info to access Xbox LIVE and Zune content ranging from movie rentals to sports highlights courtesy of ESPN3.
And my setup is relatively tame compared to some. Heck, I don't even have a Slingbox hooked up for placeshifting my content to a smartphone.
"Watching TV" is more complicated and more flexible than ever. With hundreds of channels and thousands of online portals ready and willing to serve video to your screens 24-7, the options can be overwhelming. That's where we come in.
Today kicks off a series on Connected TV, or "The Future of Watching," that will look at the myriad ways to watch TV at home and on the go, including TVs, consoles, settop boxes, tablets/smartphones, and the software and services that fill them up with your favorite sitcoms and sporting events. From Hulu to Vudu and Slingbox to iTunes, I'll go hands-on in search of the cheapest, easiest, most versatile and overall bestest ways to get your video on demand whenever and wherever you want.
For a primer, check out Sean's series on "Cutting the Cable" as well as the legendary "Console Wars," which includes a round on the media playback capabilities of Xbox 360 and PS3, two of the best options out there for gamers who also want to get their high-def video on.
Meantime, let me know if there's something in particular you're just itching to know about the TV of the Future. Is there a piece of hardware you want reviewed? Which service offers every episode of Freaks and Geeks on demand? What's the easiest way to watch the Super Bowl on an iPad? When will streaming Netflix come to my Droid X? You ask it, I'll do my best to answer it.
Now then … In the immortal words of Black Flag, We're gonna have a TV party tonight!
Check out the entire Connected TV series: