Talking tech since 2003

Looking back it now it’s somewhat entertaining and equally mesmerizing to realize how far television has come in the past few decades.  I mean, it really wasn’t that long ago when a big box-sized television sporting bunny-ears and more than likely only a simple black-and-white picture was considered the “standard.”  Now in our present day the “modern” television equipment from last week almost seems outdated already in comparison to the even newer offerings hitting the market.  Plasma screens came and went in what felt like a heartbeat and now society makes it feel as if watching the Sunday game on anything less than a wall-sized LCD in 1080p is simply unacceptable.

But just as much as television hardware has changed over the years – predominantly in the last decade or so – the mechanisms in which we get our content has innovated quite a bit as well.  Just as cable and satellite providers trumped analog antennas and over-the-air public broadcasting, the Internet is becoming the new way to watch content.  And with the convenience of being able to watch whatever one wants whenever they want to, Internet-based streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu have even managed to put digital video recording systems (DVR’s) – a “premium” feature that cable and satellite subscribers used to pay dearly for to shame.

Sure, things are looking up for companies that have gotten involved in the Internet television revolution; even more “traditional” cable providers like Comcast have more recently begun to surrender to the fact that the Internet is the future of television and that devices like the iPad are pushing the need for more flexible streaming solutions.

This week Best Buy rolled out a new television under it’s in-house “Insignia” brand that promises to ease the transition to the Internet-based television spectrum, ultimately making it that much easier for perspective cable-cutters to finally make the jump.  Powered by the TiVo design, the Insignia Connected TV utilizes existing home broadband connections to connect to Netflix’s streaming library as well as the indescribable YouTube catalog and music-oriented services such as Pandora and Napster.

Personally, I’m really excited about this new television set come out because it really does add a “finishing touch” to the consumer-streaming product.  You see, as much as I conceptually love products such as the Roku, I must say that the need for an external box does indeed seem a bit tacky to me, whereas the Connected TV will more or less be ready to be put into use directly out of the box.

However, this isn’t exactly a perfect solution, though.  You see, as beautiful as the television itself is it lacks connectivity to online streaming service Hulu, which recent studies have (unsurprisingly) shown to have a bigger focus on television in retrospect to Netflix, which has more of a foundation in movie streaming.  What this means is that people who try to keep up with in-season series are pretty much out of luck when it comes to this particular offering.

Moreover, as happy as I am to see a product that eases the transition to Internet-based entertainment, I must say that I am disappointed to see that this TV doesn’t have a DVR built-in.  Of course a DVR is something that you would need traditional television service to utilize and many providers now offer set-top DVR boxes as part of their packages, but it seems a bit silly that a TiVo powered device wouldn’t have one built-in.  On top of this, streaming content from a home computer is also out of the question.

In terms of price, you can pick up the full-HD (1080p) 32” set for $499 and the 42” offering for $699, although there have been reports that Best Buy’s website had accidentally had the prices marked up at higher inaccurate prices on their website yesterday.  There is no monthly fee for the TiVo software, and considering that it doesn’t offer DVR functionality I guess this is pretty fair.  Mind you, in order to have any chance at cutting the cord and abandoning your cable or satellite provider you’re going to have to subscribe to Netflix to get decent streaming content.

I myself am not planning on hopping in any line to pick one of these new TV sets up, but I do appreciate the fact that Internet-based television is indeed going in the right direction and will probably end up re-considering this once Hulu becomes a streaming option.  Kudos to Best Buy and TiVo for their awesome progress.

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