IPTV uses the Internet to deliver television.
The technology can be used to offer a dizzying array of options: Desperate Housewives anytime you want it, the Super Bowl from a dozen different camera angles, and a nearly limitless number of channels. Telecom companies are embracing IPTV since they're building their TV systems from scratch. Cable companies, which use older technology, are likely to begin migrating to IPTV over the next five years. Analyst Hervé Uteza with the Diffusion Group Inc. estimates that 15.3 million homes will subscribe to IPTV services worldwide by 2008, compared with 184 million using traditional cable technology.
There's little doubt that IPTV will change the way couch potatoes get their programming. Today's cable systems were designed to have every channel they offer flow to each set-top box at the same time -- ready for the viewer to select one. But with all of that programming clogging the cable into a home, cable operators can offer only a limited number of channels.
IPTV does away with that design. Only one program shoots into a set-top box at a time. When a viewer clicks to a new channel, the set-top box notifies a computer server at the IPTV operator's facilities to instantly send a new stream of programming. This superefficient design gives viewers no end of choices. Down the road, IPTV providers expect to be able to let customers roam the Internet in search of interesting video too -- whether it's news clips, blockbuster films, or a blogger's home movies.