When my TiVo failed, I lived a non-DVR existence by default for three weeks or so, like we all did back before these things existed. (Well, of course there was the VCR, but I doubt anyone is longing to go back to the days of that medium, recording shows on tape and trying to make sure you didn't accidentally record over something you hadn't watched yet.)
At that point I considered the idea of giving up cable TV and having only internet service. The phrase "cord-cutter" has been popularized by the media, but it's inaccurate because even if you choose to watch TV programming solely via a computer, you still need internet access, and that is usually supplied by the same provider as your TV service.
You can get an Apple TV and use it in conjunction with your iTunes account, buying season passes to only the shows you want to watch. You can also use an iPad or iPhone with AirPlay and an Apple TV to send content from a web browser (like current TV shows on Hulu or one of the networks' own sites) to a larger screen, like your TV.
But the availability of that type of
content online is still frustratingly inconsistent, and access to a lot
of it still requires logging in to verify that you have a cable subscription. It's complicated, even to watch a show on your computer that you missed or want to catch up on. And I'm not even the sort of person who puts on the TV and flips around to see what's on. Eventually I realized that I'm just much too accustomed to and entrenched in the habit of using a DVR to record, store, and keep track of what I want to watch.
The key piece that's missing is having web access built into the TV itself. It's surprising that Apple has not yet offered an Apple TV with a built-in browser. (I know it's possible to hack an Apple TV to add a browser, but that's not a mainstream solution.) Why hasn't this happened? It's right there, just out of reach. As I said to a friend, it seems very hard to believe that
we're 20 years into the internet era and there is still no genuine,
legitimate convergence between the web and TV, something that was being
promised almost from the birth of the web. That feels like a huge missed opportunity.
I've also been hoping that the advent of solid state hard drives would enable companies like TiVo to be able to build and offer a next generation of DVRs that don't need traditional spinning hard drives, which would likely enable such devices to last much, much longer. In the absence of a converged TV (or attachment like Apple TV) with a web browser built in, a DVR with an SSD seems like a decent consolation prize.