HBO has officially flipped the switch on its much anticipated standalone streaming service across Apple TV and iOS devices. As announced earlier, pricing is set at $14.99 per month, and subscriptions must be purchased directly through your iTunes account. With no contracts or cable subscriptions to contend with, you’re free to pick up or drop HBO Now as you please, while HBO is throwing the first month free of charge to get you hooked.

HBO Now is essentially the same as HBO Go -- you get the full vault of original shows, sporting events, comedy specials and catalog movies. The main difference, of course, is that you’re not required to be subscribed to cable.

The service is officially available only in the US but by cutting cable companies out of the picture there’s also an unintended benefit for anyone who wants to work around that restriction and still pay for access. That is, since you don't need to validate your account with a cable company as with HBO Go, as long as you have a US iTunes account (foreigners can get one by buying a prepaid iTunes card or with a US issued credit card) and access to a VPN service, you can get HBO Now anywhere in the world -- as I was able to verify first hand.

Subscribers can have up to three simultaneous HBO Now streams but as The Verge points out, HBO is reserving the right to change this whenever it chooses and without warning, should login sharing become a problem.

HBO Now is also going live for those who use Cablevision's Optimum Internet service at the same $14.99 per month. Both Apple and Cablevision customers can view streams through HBONow.com.

With Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley set to premiere their new seasons on April 12, the timing for HBO Now couldn’t be better for fans of these shows, and at the very least the 30-day free trial should be a no-brainer.