Television of the Future

Ten years ago, I was the guy who had the first everything. If it was new and it involved technology, I was the first kid on the block. At some point, either I became too busy to keep up with everything or I simply discovered it was financially more sensible to wait a bit. You know, for version 2.0.

So it was with great pleasure last week that I finally purchased my first flat screen TV. Yep, I was one of those old square tube hold outs. It wasn’t that I haven’t been tempted the last five years, it’s just that I was waiting for the technology to catch up to where I wanted it to be. That and everything I’ve read the past six months said that the falling prices on those beautiful flat screens was probably going to level out at the end of 2010. The store inventories were finally hitting equilibrium.

And my timing couldn’t be better. I used to have satellite TV. I was an early small dish adopter, but when I moved into my new photography studio five years ago, I just didn’t have the time to watch a lot of television and so I dropped it. And I just couldn’t justify giving any money to the cable company pirates. You know who you are.

So yeah. Just over the air TV for me when I did find time to watch.

When I finally began shopping for my first flat screen a few months ago, I had a few things on my list. It had to be 1080p. It had to have a good refresh rate. And it had to talk to my wireless internet network and my studio computers – without an additional box.

Check, check, check.

And for a price much, much lower than I would have paid for half of the television even two years ago, with features that weren’t even available back then. Plus an additional $100 off for Cyber Monday.

I’ve spent the last week exploring all that a properly networked television can do. And I’m astounded. Beautiful digital over the air TV signals to be sure, but what really makes it compelling is all the internet content I can watch on it with a few clicks of the remote.

The good people at Netflix have figured this out and for $7.99 a month, I can watch anything off of their Instantly Watch menu. Sure, it’s not nearly as extensive as their DVD offerings. But it’s damn good. I’ve already loaded up 30 movies and television program seasons in my cue that I can watch anytime. Start, stop, resume. Oh and if I get sleepy, watching movies into the wee hours, I can stop, get some shut-eye and pick right where I left off on my iPhone on my way into the office the next morning. It knows where I left off. Damned intelligent, Netflix is.

I love living in the future.

If I want to watch something more current, CinemaNow is also on my television and for a small rental fee per movie, I can indulge in what I can’t find on Netflix.

UPDATE: It turns out that CinemaNow is extremely Mac un-freindly. They let me sign up for an account online, but after that, their website is not Mac compatible. Their website! Who ever heard of a website being PC only??!! CinemaNow is just that. Safari? Nope. Firefox? Nope. So I can’t even login to cancel my account with them. It’s 2010. Please keep up with the rest of us.

Vudu is also on my new TV and offers the same movies as CinemaNow and I can use any Mac browser to access my account. So I have switched from CinemaNow to Vudu to watch new releases. Buh bye CinemaNow and your silly non-Mac website.

With Netflix and Vudu, there is no frustrating buffering, waiting for the movie to load. As soon as I select something I want to watch, it checks my current internet connection and serves up the proper bandwidth encoded version of the movie. No stalling. It just plays all the way through without interruption. Unless I decide to pause it for whatever reason.

And this is all without any additional box hooked up to the TV.

But it’s not just movies. If I feel like a little intellectual inspiration, I can view hundreds of fascinating lectures with the TED TV app. If you haven’t heard of TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), it’s a small non profit all devoted to, in their words, Ideas Worth Spreading. You can pick a talk from hundreds of artists, scientists, designers and other interesting people who have given their lectures at the various TED events over the years. It’s really inspiring stuff. And it’s all on my TV, whenever I want it. Perfect for those times when Mike & Molly is the only thing on free TV and I’d rather not dumb down my IQ.

How about music? Pandora. It’s on my TV as well. I just turned one of my friends onto Pandora and he can’t thank me enough. Pick an band or singer or a song and Pandora will analyze said selection and create a station full of tunes that are similar to the one you have selected. And go ahead and pay the $36/year for Pandora One for the higher quality audio and no commercials. Best $36 you’ll spend this year.

YouTube? Yep. Facebook? If you must. Hulu? Yes, but for a monthly fee, the bastards. I’ll skip that one for now. Picassa, so I can put up an ever changing HD slideshow of my photography. Getty Images for when I want to turn my TV into a museum of Fine Art.

And a channel called MakingOf, which offers a selection of Behind the Scenes videos, interviews and trailers of current movies. Excellent for when you have 15 minutes to kill.

News, weather.

In short, it’s Television of the Future. Without the $80-150/month cable bill. More than I personally could get bored with. All whenever I want to serve it up…. when I have some rare downtime anyway.

It’s good to wait for version 2.0… or 5.0 in my particular case.

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