The television has gone through a number of substantial changes over the past decade. HDTVs became the norm, "DVRing" became a verb that most people understand, and streaming content became easy to find.
But the cable connection and the movie player (formerly VHS, now DVD) haven't changed much in 30 years or more.
Content owners have started to loosen up a little bit when it comes to making content available in non-traditional forms. Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) Xfinity allows on-demand viewing of some popular shows the day after they air. Most networks allow streaming over the Internet for a period of time.
But are we about to enter a revolution in television where anywhere, anytime is the norm?
Signs point to "maybe"
I've been hopeful that the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) TV would be a device that could turn the content industry on its head, but so far that hasn't been the case. Apple's hobby has made buying or renting movies and TV shows easier but still hasn't replaced the DVD, DVR, or cable connection.
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) took a different approach with the Google TV, essentially creating a giant computer monitor. That has its uses for watching online television shows, YouTube, and MLB TV.
But both Apple TV and Google TV could be bringing improvements our way soon. Google launched an improved Google TV last week that plans to leverage YouTube to bring original content to users. It's also bringing the Android market to the television on a limited basis. This could open up a world of options for content providers to bring alternatives directly to customers instead of using Hulu or Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) as an intermediate.
Apple has long been rumored to be working on a subscription service that could expand offerings beyond simply downloads from Disney (NYSE: DIS ) , News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS ) Fox, and other content owners. If comments in Steve Jobs' biography were any indication, the new Apple TV, in whatever form it takes, "would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud." That sounds pretty cool if Apple can pull it off.
Beyond the cord
We aren't to the point of cord-cutting yet, but the next generation of television appears to be only a few steps away. Google has stepped up its effort, and now it's time for Apple to make a move. The future of TV will be here before you know it, and with Apple and Google leading the way, the changes could come so quickly that competitors get left behind.
Stay tuned to see what happens next.
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