For cord-cutters, the television makers at the Consumer Electronics Show gave us a lot of complex sorta-solutions to what is (on paper) and easy-to-solve problem. If these companies want to reinvent the television, they should start with reinventing cable. But, since the industry has made it clear that will not happen, CES has shown us the techie version of a solution, which looks like all we've got for now. Much of the stuff doesn't exactly deliver. But, it represents the immediate future of TV, as far as a cord-cutter (or, more likely a cord-never) is concerned.
Taking the Box Out of Cable
The Theory Behind the Trend: This version of cord-cutting is more of an illusion than a solution. Taking the term "cut the cord" a bit too literally, tech companies have invented new ways to get cable without the set-top box. If we can't see where the cable comes from, we might forgot about all that money we pay for all those channels we don't want.
What's New This Year: Electronics makers have released variations on this idea before. But at this year's CES we saw smaller box replacements that could do more than ever.
- Intel's Magic Chip: Coming soon to a television near you: the cable chip. Working with Comcast, Intel will put chips in televisions
- Roku's Streaming Stick: This stick, which plugs into the back of a compatible television, debuted at last year's CES. But this year it made the leap to cable, announcing a deal with Time Warner. In addition to all the other apps, like Netflix and Blockbuster on Demand, now those who subscribe to that cable company get all those channels live streaming, too.
- Asus's Qube Cube and Netgear's NeoTV PRIME Box: And here we have the Google versions. These are not exactly a replacement for the Google-made Nexus Q, the very bizarre orb it released last year to the confusion of many a tech nerd. But they run on Google software, As for content, it connects up to cable and all the Google Play.
Why These Are Great: Nobody likes clutter. But, also, they make the switch between streaming and cable a lot easier. Say, before the Girls premier you want a marathon Season 1 refresher: these make it easy to do that without moving from the couch.
Why They Aren't: These either require a cable subscription, or only offer content available on certain apps. You may not be able to see it, but the cord is still there.
The End of the Remote
The Theory Behind The Trend: Frustrated with flipping through channels, unable to find anything to watch? Blame the remote, not all the channels you pay for with nothing to watch.
What's New This Year: The end of the clicker means the beginning of other ways to discover the hidden gems
- Samsung, LG, and Panasonic's Swipe-y Menu: No more TV guide lists for you. The home screen now presents a personalized menu of all the things to watch. It also includes on demand selections from apps you pay for, like Hulu+ and Netflix.
- Sony's Remote You Talk To: Say hello to... your remote. Sony did it. We have the supposed revolutionary— at least according to Steve Jobs — voice-controlled remote.
- Opera's App Store: Another interface from another Internet company.
Why These Are Great: The channel changer has not changed much since its development in 1950. It's about time and some of these things will make finding the good stuff in that boob-tube a lot easier.
Why They Aren't: Just another way to find the same stuff, right?
The Theory Behind the Trend: Cable might prove more useful if it didn't just come out of one box connected to one TV. And then maybe we wouldn't mind paying all that money?
What's New This Year: Small efforts to put the content you already pay for on other devices.
- Dish's Hopper With Sling: Dish will now offer a built in SlingBox, which allows people to watch home television from anywhere, with its DVR.
- Samsung's Smart TV: The TV does a lot of the other things explained above, but it also will stream content to and from other Samsung devices.
Why These Are Great: More is more.
Why They Aren't: Very intense ties to cable.
Ultra High-Def Screens
The Theory Behind the Trend: Right now most content is not optimized for these super high-def 4K televisions. Maybe in the rush to create 4K-compatible television, streaming sites, like Netflix and Hulu, will create awesome original content to win over these viewers, suggests The Verge's Nathan Ingraham.
What's New This Year: 4K televisions everywhere.
Why These Are Great: The screens make stuff look very pretty.
Why They Aren't: Ingraham's theory sounds a little far-fetched.
As aspiring cord-cutters can see, the gadgets may come in different shapes, but what they do, or rather don't do, has not change. Most of this stuff helps people watch things on the Internet with more ease. It does not, however, change the state of selecting cable