Apple's rumored iTV: time to dump your cable provider?

With so much TV content now available online, and hardware like the rumored iTV, should you watch all your TV content online?

Apple is reportedly in talks with Fox, CBS, NBC and The Walt Disney Co. to offer 99-cent TV episode rentals through iTunes. It's unclear if each network would offer all their content for rental on iTunes or just select series. Episodes would be available for rental within 24 hours after their initial airing and expire after 48 hours, according to Bloomberg.

The new offering would also be integrated with a revamped, and still rumored, iOS-based Apple TV that could stream content from iTunes, run iOS applications, and would have a similar design to the iPhone 4 and be renamed iTV.

With so much television content now available online, and hardware like the rumored iTV (not to mention the forthcoming Google TV) on the horizon, it begs the now age-old question: Is it time to dump your cable provider and just watch all your TV content online? Let's take a look.

Cable

Right now if you want a cable package that includes regular network television, specialty channels such as HBO and Showtime, plus any specialized sports content, you are probably looking at a cable bill somewhere around $US80-$100. But along with that hefty bill come a lot of channels, shows and other TV-based junk you simply don't want.

This has moved some people to seek out cable-free television alternatives instead. Technology writer Nick Bilton detailed his adventures in a la carte TV in The New York Times last December, and PC World Contributing Editor Harry McCracken has detailed his quest for Life without Comcast on his blog Technologizer.

I have also found that I spend far less time flipping through channels than I used to. I can find most of what I want to watch online, and if I want to see something on a bigger screen it's relatively simple to hook my laptop up to the television.

But tech-minded people have been able to put together their own television alternatives for some time. For most users, however, the technological hurdles to go cable-free are still off-putting. Could an easy-to-use iTV change all that?

iTV

If the rumors are true, iTV would be a radical departure from the current version of Apple TV that just displays downloaded content from iTunes. Powered by iOS4--the same operating system that runs the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch--the rumored iTV would be a simple set-top box able to run third-party iOS applications.

That means iTV should have access to many content-based applications you can get on your iPhone or iPad right now. Just think about what that might mean. The new iTV could stream Netflix or download movies from iTunes. Television shows would be available on Hulu Plus, ABC Player or the rumored iTunes rentals. Even baseball fans would be covered with the MLB at Bat application and a subscription to MLB.TV.

The biggest question, however, would be how well iTV apps performed on your living room screen. Rentals from iTunes won't be a problem since they are already designed with television displays in mind. But it's unclear what content would look like using the current versions of Hulu Plus or Netflix.

The specialty and Live TV Conundrum

As far as content goes, the biggest missing pieces of the puzzle would be live television events and specialty channels such as HBO and Showtime. For the most part, live TV online is improving. Newsworthy events such as the 2008 presidential debates and President Obama's inauguration were available online. The NFL has dabbled in live event viewing online with Sunday Night Football, and viewers outside of North America can buy streaming packages for regular season games as well as the Super Bowl. Many other sports are also starting to offer paid online packages or even free streaming, but their availability within North America varies.

Channels such as HBO and Showtime, however, are very reluctant to offer a lot of content online compared with their network television counterparts. You can easily purchase the latest episode of Mad Men from iTunes, for example, but recent seasons of Dexter, True Blood and Weeds are usually available for purchase on iTunes after their DVD release dates.

So if you're dependent on live sports or other specialty content, you may not be able to jettison your cable provider just yet. But if iTV and 99-cent TV show rentals become a reality, there might be quite a few of you out there who are ready to say goodbye to cable forever.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags IPTVAppleconsumer electronicsHome TheaterApple TVinternet tventertainment

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?