With tech pundits, know-it-alls, and marketing agencies all clamoring about television’s Internet revolution, it’s important to remember that “the revolution” has already passed us by, and that we (the tech-hungry masses) are really playing catch up. The key players in this entertainment coup have been at the downloadable entertainment table for years. Netflix, streaming’s alpha dog, was launched in 1998, and has offered digital distribution since ‘99. They actually took a step backwards this year. Apple TV debuted in 2006, so Roku’s streaming innovations are hardly innovative, and Youtube, the virile host of virulent videos, has been supplying content for Tosh.0 since 2005. Whereas as the hype surrounding online content is slow in coming, it’s outrun the actual product development in 3D technology. There are still only a handful of stations that even broadcast in 3D, which is about the same state of affairs as 2010. The price of 3D TV’s is still prohibitive for the masses. Toshiba’s glasses-free set, which is the only viable future for 3D, runs about $1400 for a 12-inch screen, and isn’t yet available globally (plans point to 2015 as the target date). From most angles, 2011 in the entertainment industry was the same as 2010, but there’s still a solenoid lining to the innovative cloud over the past year and these developments are the form it took. Qwikster Got Scrapped And in the process, Netflix lost 800,000 subscribers with more on the way. This opened the door for the once-irrelevant Blockbuster to claw back onto the entertainment scene as a Redbox, Gamefly, Netflix hybrid, which should be rebranded as Redflyx but is still Blockbuster. Other sturdy online rental sites like Amazon and iTunes gobbled up some extra business as well. The resulting competition between these different entertainment species will likely halt the kind of price hikes that got Reed Hastings Qwikstered. Netflix/Roku Not everything the red envelope club did this past year was idiotic. The Netflix-Roku collaboration looks promising. Roku’s initial offerings were moderately successful in terms of innovation, but their new box with Netflix should establish them as the preeminent provider of streamed content on television. The $99 cube offers decent streaming and a user-friendly interface for pulling videos directly onto your TV. While the box is initially limited to Netflix, the internals are also compatible with Youtube’s flash format and is sure to include streaming from other sites soon. These are all already offered on Apple TV, but the price point makes the…Netbox? (OK, I’ll stop) an exciting addition. Glasses-free 3D Television is Actually Kind of Exciting I spilled a little hatred on the 3D hype-engine in the opener, but that doesn’t mean the prospect of an added dimension on our 50-inch screens wouldn’t be awesome—especially if it comes without the goofy, battery-powered goggles or mondo-hipster glasses that currently run the show. The obstacles that stand in the way of this feat are viewing distance, current televisions have an optimum viewing range; clarity, creating the 3D effect detracts from the pixel quality; and cost, they’re still expensive. Each of these developmental blocks has solutions, which is why 2015 can’t come too soon. The quicker we get easy, clear 3D television, the quicker current LED-sets drop in price. Portable Media Devices and Cloud Storage Oracle’s CEO may not agree, but services like Cloud Drive and iCloud have expanded the already extensive list of media files that can be downloaded and enjoyed on your iPad, iPhone, or Android-capable device. This makes your home DVD/Blu-Ray collection portable, and acts as a nice compliment to the host of apps that allow you to stream cable TV shows and movies to your PMD of choice. Streaming onto an iPad expands the dimensions of TV’s portability to time and space—a “view your favorite show when you want, where you want” kind of thing.
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