So I've been wondering who'll be weighing in for the battle for our TVs. There are certainly some interesting prospects on the market at the minute, but I who will win and does there even need to be a winner? This feels different to a format war reminiscent of VHS vs Betamax or more recently (and on-going) HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray. It's more akin to the cable vs satellite vs freeview vs top-up-TV wars we've seen recently.
Both the cable and satellite offerings have pay-per-view content, while freeview generally doesn't. All of these offerings have recording options, although generally with cable or satellite you would have to use the operators set up box, with freeview you are free to choose from a variety of products, some with hard drives for recording.
Two more recent entries on the market are worth looking at further though. BT and Microsoft. BT have released Vision, which is a freeview recorder with pay-per-view capabilities. It looks as if BT have taken two interesting features from the above and merged them before the others had a chance. Get free digital channels, the ability to record programs and the option to purchase movies, TV shows and sporting events all without a contract and monthly fee.
So far so good, apart from the fact with BT Vision, as the content is delivered over the IP network it means you have to have a minimum broadband speed to cope with the streaming, and the way to do that is to have BT broadband. As a side note, to have BT broadband you need a BT land line, sorry all those who switched to cable.
It seems like a lot of competition, but let's not forget the software companies attempts. Well, I call them software companies, but if you have an Xbox 360 or Apple TV then that's hardware really isn't it?
Now in the UK you can download standard definition or high definition pay per view content. Its movies and TV shows at the minute with no sporting content signed up, but who knows what the future might bring. We've been able to download TV content from iTunes for a while now (well not really in the UK) and let's not forget the muted Amazon Unbox.
We're crossing into interesting territory now. With cable and satellite operators you need a billing relationship (and all that implies, i.e. address etc). With BT, you also need that, but have to buy into their other products. With iTunes, xBox 360 Live and Amazon Unbox you pay for what you use when you use it (or use pre-pay credits) and use them where ever you are signed in to the relevant hardware or software to view your content.
Are we living in a world where we increasingly don't need or want bundles? With mobile broadband from providers like 3, and wireless city meshes potentially driving out needing a cable run into your home for land line phone services and broadband, where digital TV is free and pay-per-view content available through a variety of sources be they games consoles, set top boxes or just over the web do consumers want to be tied into contracts and services they can only use in one place?