Since people are always online these days, and many kids spend more time on the computer than they do watching television, the two technologies were bound to merge at some point. Look to YouTube, iTunes, and Amazon's Unbox to make the Internet as much a source of new video programming as cable or satellite.
PC: Microsoft's Media Center option -- with TV tuner cards and DVR software -- is included in Windows Vista Home Premium. The drawback to a computer-based DVR is that few people want to watch TV on a computer monitor. So manufacturers are creating products that pull recorded programs from a PC and show them on the living room TV, like Microsoft's Xbox 360. HP's MediaSmart TVs allow you to watch television programs (and listen to music and view digital pictures) stored on your computer.
Cost: Windows Vista Home Premium is $30 more than the cost of a standard PC. The TV tuner adds $100. (The computer can then function as its own DVR using its hard drive for storage.)
Apple: The trivet-size Apple TV syncs your iTunes library with your television (works for Mac or PC) so you can retrieve programs or music you've downloaded from iTunes via your wired or wireless home network and play them through the TV. ABC programs can be purchased on iTunes the day after they've aired.
Cost: from $299; TV shows, $1.99 an episode; movies, from $9.99 to $14.99.
Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the March 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.