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What Is the Future of TV?

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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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Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of Disney. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings, or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Netflix, Walt Disney, and Google and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 6:19 AM, don1941t wrote:

    And the anti-Microsoft bias at TMF continues. You guys really need to present fair and balanced coverage of all the players in the field. Please bing (that's the MSFT word for google) xbox and see if some recent announcements about plans do not warrant an update to this article. Or even an article exclusively about xbox that does not mention App Whole or Googol.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 9:58 AM, verylargelarry wrote:


    MSFT doesn't get the coverage you covet because for decades now their products have been ME TOO copies of some other company's developments. They copy Nintendo's WII with a good product, they mimic Apple's Ipod with a good product, even their OS is now more closely resembling the Apple OS, its phone technology followed the Iphone and Android.

    As an investor, I am interested in the first movers. MSFT is Office, with a few other bells and whistles.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 12:26 PM, Brent2223 wrote:

    The current AppleTV + wifi already gives me seamless access to all my media. I've cut the cord on my DVD player, movie channels will be cut if Netflix ever gets good content in Canada, and cable TV if Canada gets Hulu-like services. The technology is out there, I'm just waiting for content to catchup.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2011, at 7:00 PM, racchole wrote:

    The simple way to understand this is, the TV medium will become the internet medium. You will stop paying a "cable" bill and instead your Internet bill will be $150. Don't need to watch cable TV? That's WILL need to pay for Internet. Even someone like me will be able to stream Channel Racchole from the basement of my house. The good ol' days of pirate radio/TV is upon us.

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