Tech Talk: We’re all in this together

IF television this year is remembered for anything other than the Olympics, it will be for YouView, the long-awaited successor to Freeview.

It may not be remembered for the right reasons, since at this point we don’t know for sure if the new service will make it off the launchpad, or if it will be out-of-date by the time it does – but too much money has been spent for the event to pass off unnoticed. YouView is a joint venture involving all the main broadcasters, BT, TalkTalk and others, and combines the functions of a Freeview or Freesat recorder with a broadband computer. The idea is to deliver all your programmes – whether on traditional channels like BBC1 or new ones like YouTube – through the same, familiar on-screen guide.

This means that as well as being able to scroll forwards seven days to see what’s coming up, you will be able to go backwards to see what you missed – and then watch the programmes as if they were still current. There will be no need to call up the iPlayer or Channel Four’s 4oD; all the content will appear in one single menu.

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To benefit from all this, you will need a new set-top box, for a one-off fee of about £200. In addition to the usual array of Scart and HDMI sockets, it will have two USB ports to plug in memory sticks or a portable hard drive, and it will connect to your wireless home network.

The launch was planned originally for the year before last, but is now expected this month or next – the engineers having been told that if they don’t get their act together in time for the Olympics, they might as well pack up and go home.

The question remains, will anyone be interested? When YouView was first mooted, the idea of watching content from the web on your TV was pretty well revolutionary. But since then all manner of boxes have appeared allowing you to do just that. YouView’s principal selling proposition now is that it does away with the need to switch from one box to another – except when you want to watch a DVD.

You will be able to pick up YouView boxes from your local Argos or Currys and there will be versions that work with TV aerials and (eventually) satellite dishes.

But before you buy, be sure to look at other “connected” TV solutions, including Freeview HD boxes and televisions with their own internet connectivity.

All of these will soon become the norm – bringing to an end the era of wiring your PC to the TV, just to watch the iPlayer.