While many people are focused on the recent launch of Google TV, there are a range of existing alternatives for people who want more than just TV on their TVs — or who may what to “cut the (cable) cord” entirely. The chart below offers a short overview and comparison of the major providers and systems available in the US market. It is not intended to be definitive or exhaustive.
Each product or system below requires some sort of new hardware, either a set-top box or a entirely new TV. Prices range from a low of $59 for the cheapest Roku box to well over $1,000 for the largest Sony Internet TV.
The majority of these systems do not provide access to the full internet — only Google TV currently does — but they all provide internet content in various forms and to varying degrees. Yahoo Connected TV, for example, offers a growing library of “widgets” that provide web content: “the Best of the Web on TV” is the slogan. (See update below.)
This widget or app approach is very analogous to the smartphone universe and we should see that model continue to gain traction as an alternative to simply putting a browser on the big screen (as you have now with Opera on the Wii). Internet content and its presentation need to be optimized for the “form factor” of TV and the “lean back” experience. YouTube, for example, has developed a special “lean back” version for this reason.
Some of these systems are more “social” than others (e.g., Boxee, Xbox Live). But overall the available content and degree of internet access varies widely. While I would handicap each of these providers somewhat differently and believe some have a better chance than others, it’s still quite unclear which systems will penetrate the mainstream.
Taken together, however, they do make clear that we’re entering a new era in the evolution of TV, or as I like to call it the “master screen.”
Update: I was corrected that the Boxee Box does offer full internet access through a browser.
- Internet-To-TV Players Compared: Roku, Apple TV, Boxee & Google TV
- Life With Google TV: First Day Review & Impressions
- Programming Your DVR Made Easy: Google TV, Dish & The Logitech Revue
- Boxee Box: First Day Review & Impressions
- Apple TV: First Day Review & Impressions
- Roku: First Day Review & Impressions
- Roku + Hulu Plus = Pretty Awesome
Also see our Internet-To-TV page for further stories that will come.