When the Internet was still in its infancy, all those 15 years or so ago, web pages mostly consisted of hyperlinked text, some .jpg or .gif images, and some.midi files to keep your audio interest. Sure, you could download MP3 files, but embedding them into web pages was still something of a novelty.
And video? Well, you could view some ten second clips, but the lag time was enormous, and that’s even if you could sit through the endless “buffering” span. If you wanted to watch television, for the most part, you still had to watch an actual television.
Today, television and movies can be streamed, almost seamlessly, through your Internet broadband connection. Practically every major television news outlet has annoying video windows that just automatically play in the right or left margin of their home page, if not smack dab right in the middle. Video has become such a commonplace fixture of the Internet that we now practically take it for granted.
But, most people also watch television as well, whether via satellite or cable, because sitting on the couch in front of a big screen TV is often preferable to curling up and squinting into the far smaller screen of a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
With that said, the worlds of Internet video and television continue to merge relentlessly. While some people still steadfastly rely on computer monitors, most individuals with even a minute understanding of technology realize that almost all modern flat panel televisions can also be used as computer monitors, and that laptops and even smartphones can be used to relay Internet video to television screens.
Until only recently, connecting computers and other devices to televisions required at least some sort of hard-wired attachment. Even televisions that appeared with built-in, stripped-down computers were essentially hard-wired to allow Internet video viewing. Plus, those television/computer hybrids are impractical beasts prone to all sorts of problems. For example, if the computer component crashes, you have to take the entire television to the shop for repairs… highly inconvenient!
There are two emerging worlds of Internet and television merging that could potentially reshape the broadband and television industries. On the one hand, there are small, inexpensive boxes made specifically to bring the Internet to the television. On the other hand, there’s a growing world of wireless options that can transmit Internet content to your television from your favorite handheld devices and computers.
Consider the Roku box, for example. This relatively simple device acts as a streaming player that provides a variety of Internet-based “channels,” both on-demand and live streaming, depending on the user’s preference. Devices like the Roku box are gaining in popularity, and they continue to add functionality, such as gaming, that can only further contribute to their proliferation.
On the wireless end of the spectrum, consider Google Chromecast. With a simple USB/HDMI/antenna device, a user can turn any HDMI-equipped television into a wireless receptor for Internet content streaming from any device that’s equipped with the Google Chrome operating system or the Google Chrome Web browser. This slick little piece of technology will no doubt have competitors crawling out of the woodwork.
Finally, devices people have been using for years, like DVD and Blu-Ray players, are experimenting with embedding Internet capabilities as well, essentially making them stripped-down computers, not unlike the television/computer hybrids mentioned previously.