Cablevision, one of the nation's larger cable television providers and the provider for New York City, isthat I kind of like the sound of: Internet on your TV without the need for an extra box or gadget.
The new system, which is called "PC to TV Media Relay" (seriously, that's the catchiest name they could come up with?), will allow subscribers to watch movies, browse email, or look through online photos… all without the need for another piece of equipment. Don't get your hopes up too fast… it won't start until June, and even then it will just be testing the service with a select group of customers. But it sounds kind of sweet.
All that's required is a simple software download. The software operates much like the remote desktop applications many of you are no doubt familiar with, "sharing" your PC with your television. Much like Comcast's "premium content online for subscribers" service, this new Cablevision service will only be open to their customers who already subscribe to both Internet and cable television service.
The signal actually leaves your house, though, and goes back to Cablevision Central (my nickname for it) before then being sent back out to your TV. That's a long way to go for a signal to travel a few feet. It's also a possible security risk if you think Big Brother wants to spy on your Facebook updates or read your secret emails. But when you consider that the fine people of Cablevision already have access to all your web-browsing habits, it's no bigger risk to use this service.
Let me tell you why news like this excites me, even though I'm not a Cablevision subscriber. It excites me because someone's going to have to eliminate the gap between the viewer experience on a PC and the viewer experience on the TV.
Right now, I can have a great time watching content on my laptop. I have a 17-inch screen that I'm in love with, and I'm perfectly happy to sit back on a cushy couch, put on some headphones, and watch Lost or The Office.
The problem for me comes when my wife and I both want to watch the same program online at the same time. For example, we're both big fans of Bravo's Top Chef, and we have watched entire seasons via the computer, having downloaded the episodes from iTunes. Even with a 17-inch screen, it's not easy to situate the thing so we can both have a great view. The quality of the experience drops considerably.
My HD television then beckons… and I know the viewing experience gets better if I am able to watch the program on my flat-screen. But that means I have to go get out my VGA cables or disconnect my DVD player and use the HDMI cable from that. It also involves me setting up a little stand next to my television to put the computer on—because the VGA or HDMI cables won't reach very far. And then sometimes the audio is out of sync.
It's a mess.
If Cablevision is promising what it sounds like they're promising… I don't need any cables… nor any little stands… none of it. My wirelessly connected laptop will beam the signal through the Cablevision mainframe and back to my TV so both the wife and I can have a great view. Well… mine won't. I have Comcast.
But you have to believe that other cable providers are going to follow suit with their own version of this service—if they haven't already. It seems likely that the television and the PC are on a collision course—you got TV in my PC! You got PC in my TV! And I welcome such a move. There's so much about each piece of hardware that could compliment and improve the other that it's almost insane not to find a way to mash the two together.
Any Cablevision subscribers in the readership? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this service: do you think it sounds cool? Will you use it?