Does an open source Roku change the content game?

At Streaming Media West TV executives described the task of getting Web streams from PCs to TVs as "really hard" but it isn't. Within minutes of hooking my own PC up, I had a YouTube comedy sketch full-screen on my HDTV. It was hilarious.

Roku from CNet
Roku will release an open source version of its software by the end of the year. (Picture from CNET's Digital Media.)

The CEO says he's looking for deals with content providers to stream their products through his device, and hopes to sell a bunch of them as a result.

But doesn't that also mean that the old laptop I put next to my TV when its screen quit might become my next digital video recorder?

As a proprietary box Roku has gotten pretty good reviews. Its deal with Netflix is now non-exclusive.

At Streaming Media West TV executives described the task of getting Web streams from PCs to TVs as "really hard" but it isn't. Within minutes of hooking my own PC up, I had a YouTube comedy sketch full-screen on my HDTV. It was hilarious.

It wasn't great quality, but if you go to the source of what you want and click fullscreen the quality is much better.

In fact my kids spent this Christmas with their Uncle Bruce in San Jose, watching streamed versions of Dexter from the Showtime site while I watched an old Woody Allen show in the front room, using the same ISP account.

The world, in other words, has already changed. The only question is who gets paid, and how.

Despite all the efforts by the copyright industries and ISPs, consumers have more choices than ever. The cable "bandwidth caps" do not preclude you from downloading Letterman.

We can argue about whether, in terms of the Internet's architecture, it is better to stream content or run it through BitTorrent.

But if everyone can have a DVR and an Internet connection tied to their TV for very little money, has not the content game changed in a fundamental way?