TiVo and video on demand services spawned an entirely new way of thinking about TV. Rather than planning our lives around when shows were on, we realized we could plan our viewing schedules around our lives. The capability to do this has expanded enormously with faster broadband Internet connections, Wi-Fi and devices built to take advantage of those technologies.
Media streamers are essentially small computers, usually lacking the expansive storage capacity of a TiVo's hard drive. Media streamers or players rely on other sources of content and are designed to be plugged directly into your TV to provide an easy interface for playing video. The wide selection of media streamers on the market today means these devices range in design and functionality. On one end of the spectrum is the Apple TV: The $100 device only outputs 720p video, streams files from iTunes and Netflix and lets users rent videos through Apple's movie store [source: Apple].
On the other end of the spectrum is the $200 Boxee Box: Not only can the Boxee stream virtually any kind of media file from a computer over Wi-Fi, it outputs video in 1080p and automatically organizes and labels content. Boxee is one of many media platforms that provides Internet-based "channels" of content in streaming form -- video like Netflix and Hulu, music from Pandora, or web videos from Comedy Central [source: Boxee].