A friend at work asked me which TV box I would recommend: Playstation; Xbox; AppleTV; GoogleTV; etc. I told him whereas there are some differences between these hardware choices, the real decision at this point is about the content that they provide.
The war over content has been around since the beginning of widespread distributed media. By the 19th century publishers were making business deals for releasing many forms of content: newspapers; books; or the new moving picture.
Film studios signed long term contracts with certain actors/actresses. Publishers contracted writers for their exclusive list of titles. This same exclusivity has continued through radio and TV.
It also existed between the technological presenter of the content and the studios. For many new forms of delivery hardware the relationship to the content has helped make or break the technology. One example of this struggle started with the sound delivery systems for "talky" films. Jump ahead a few decades and many of us remember the battle between Beta vs. VHS tapes, or more recently Blu-ray vs. HD DVD. Much of the success of the winning technology was related to the content they could provide.
As the smart phone and tablet market grows we are faced with the same war over different hardware, and the content they provide.
A few years ago the NAB (National Assoc. of Broadcasters) conference focused on ‘Convergence;’ the melding of phone, internet, and entertainment technologies together. We now hold that in the palm of our hand. This year’s convention was all about the content.
People are making hardware choices related to the content, Apps, etc. that are available. Tablets are emerging as a major content provider. The list of content providing Apps continues to grow in the Apple App Store.
Here's a quick list of some of these apps and the content supported by them:
Crackle(Sony Pictures Entertainment providing content from: Columbia pictures, Tri-Star, Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Classics & more)
Netflix(Netflix Inc: TV and movies from many studios)
XFINITY TV(Comcast Interactive Media: watch shows from the cable provider’s selection)
ABC Player (ABC Digital: The ABC lineup free at home)
HBO GO (Home Box Office Inc: for prior HBO subscribers)
Hulu Plus (Hulu, LLC providing content from: ABC, Fox, NBC)
WatchESPN (ESPN Inc. Access determined by your TV or Internet provider.)
Optimum for iPad (CSC Holdings. content for Cablevision iO Digital Cable subscriber)
Apple has built relationships with many TV, film and music studios and provides their content on its variety of devices. Even these business relations continue to evolve. When apple released its new AppleTV it was restricted to rental only. A few studios didn't support this, but their content remains in the App Store for purchase.
So back to the question at hand. If they haven't already, the companies providing TV boxes will be connecting these systems to other mobile devices very soon. To find the best TV box or mobile device for your interests you'll need to do some research on the content that each provides. I stopped paying for cable TV over a year ago. It’s ironic, in this high-tech age I’ve returned back to ‘broadcast’ TV. With my $40 digital antenna I receive FREE HD programming from the old-school broadcasting stations: NBC, FOX, CBS, ABC, & PBS. Those channels and iTunes provide the content that I want at a much cheaper monthly price.
Content delivery that will continue to have growing pains for the next 10 years as hardware and content companies continue to negotiate. (I'm waiting for the live NFL app for the iPad!)
Currently companies are touting their hardware features to one up their competitors, but it will be the available content that determines the long term winner.
We are in the midst of a historical transition. The delivery system(s) are changing rapidly. The current TV battles are just another in a long series started 20 years ago: email, phone calls, newspapers, movies, books, magazines, games, etc. So I’m sorry to say there is no easy answers to the question: “Which TV box should I buy?” because the answer may change tomorrow.