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I Want My TV. In My Pocket. Now!

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OK. Now it's really getting personal. TV, that is. Whether you're using a kid's toy (c'mon, fess up) or you want a hand-held TV device, it's exciting to know that you'll be able to watch TV in your time instead of prime time. Matthew David tells you how to have the entire TV world in your very own pocket.
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Lots of talk happening these days about taking TV and movies and watching them on iPod-sized hand-held devices. Microsoft is banging the drums really loud with its Windows Media Center version of Windows XP for devices. But while the boys in Redmond are making a lot of noise, there are some companies that are sneaking in under the radar. This article discusses how you, too, can watch videos with hand-held devices.

Changing the Way You Watch TV

Whether you like it or not, the way you watch and consume television is changing today. In late 1999, a small company released a set top box that enabled you to record any channel to a hard disk instead of tape. The company was Tivo. Over the last four years, Tivo has grown substantially and has partnered with companies such as DirectTV and Comcast.

Tivo was the first big name in this space, but the space is cluttering up. TimeWarner has devices, and Microsoft has Windows XP Media Center Edition. Just over a year ago, even I broke down and joined the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) crowd—and bought a system. It was really easy. TimeWarner leased the system to me for just $5 a month—how could I lose?

The result is that I watch only the shows I want, when I want to, and I fast-forward through the commercials.

This new craze has been dubbed Personalized TV, to contrast it with Mass TV. In many ways, the TV show rating systems no longer apply. You have no idea when I watch a show because I do not watch it at the time you tell me. For instance, when Friends aired its last show, I recorded it on the DVR (I was at a game for one of my kids) and watched it the following morning before going to work. When they tell you that 43 million people watched the last episode, I was not sitting with them.

The other aspect to personalized TV is the availability of on demand television (if you have TimeWarner Cable, you might be familiar with its iControl system, for example). Essentially, on demand TV gives you the ability to select a show on your TV from a catalog of shows and watch it now. No waiting until Must-See Thursday, and no paying of late fees. Oh, and I can pause, rewind, and fast-forward when I want to.

For the first time, TV and movies are coming to you when it is convenient for you. The element that is missing is the portability of the TV. Right now, it's hard to lug my 36-inch tube TV around, and it certainly doesn't fit in my pocket.

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