January 23, 2012

The Second Screen Landscape

Our tablets and smartphones have started invading the living room.  A Nielsen report claims that more than 40% of US TV viewers use their tablets and/or smartphones when watching TV.

This behavior opens up an opportunity to create new TV experiences including:

- Show engagement
– Guidance &
– Gaming

Show engagement

It is clear that content producers always wanted to engage with their audience to feel their pulse, solicit feedback, & build brand amongst other things. Engaged audiences garner higher CPMs. Show producers today use fan pages, clips and hash tags to engage their audience on twitter & facebook.

This infographic from the Media & Entertainment Services Alliance blog shows how much users are engaging with TV shows today.

Some excerpts:
– 110,000 Social comments on average per episode for X-Factor, the “most buzzed about” series in 2011

- 23% of the people viewing the ad on the second screen engaged with it

- 1.8 billion “likes” on Facebook for TV shows

- 25% of 18-24 year-olds are interested in having more social features integrated into their TV viewing experience
– 5,567,954 Social comments on the MTV Music Video Awards

Companies like GetGlue, IntoNow & Miso started off as being check-ins for TV shows but are now morphing into platforms to service a bigger opportunity.

Typically fanpage & hashtag related engagement creatives are decided post-facto – after the show has been made. To get the best out of this medium, the ideal way is to get the creative teams for the main storyline & augmented content working at the same time.

There are 2 types of engagement:
– Synchronous – real time as the show is being aired
– Evergreen – this is useful for getting feedback post the show (facebook fan pages for example)
Synchronous engagement is typically a lot more current, more engaging, can be more creative and typically more social since it is in sync with the show & no one knows what to expect next.

Synchronous TV works best with “appointment viewing” shows/genres like

  • News
  • Reality TV
  • Live sports
  • Events – Oscars, MTV awards

In order to enable this, content producers need a platform to deal with

  • Content management – for augmented content like calls to action, product placement, synchronous ads, actor bios, outtakes etc.
  • Sync engine – that is capable of syncing the user’s application to the correct linear time of the show
  • An app – that will present all this information to the user on their tablets/smartphones

Most apps use some form of audio fingerprinting to recognize shows. Many compete on the time it takes to recognize the show. Most second screen apps do the minimum of recognizing the show and providing additional information about the show, cast & crew.

Miso differentiates itself by working in conjunction with the operator – DirecTV, AT&T instead of using audio fingerprinting. The problem is that many users don’t have the app up and running during the show. So voice recognition systems are of no use. The trick according to the folks at Miso is to garner data about usage regardless of the app being launched and to communicate via notifications – a push model.  Miso uses the wifi connection on the set top box to communicate with the app/platform.

The important thing according to me is not make sure there is no drastic change in use case for the user when he is watching TV. A drastic change in use case is justifiable if there is a drastic change in value perceived by the user.

TVPlus understands this to some extent and has created an app that integrates with the facebook experience. I believe they have built a client with an integrated webkit engine. The point however is that they believe that most users have facebook on when watching TV and so allow them to continue “facebooking” during the show…but if there is something they find interesting during the show and want to know more or talk about it, the integrated “drop-down” menu shows up and allows the user to check-in, find more info, share etc.

Another interesting use case is that of Snappy.tv. They facilitate engagement by giving users the ability to “record & post” a clip of the TV show and post on Facebook & Twitter. Snappy works with content providers to enable this option. In the back-end they record shows from content providers. Whenever a user decides to comment on a show or a live sporting event, the user can click on “post”. This sends a message to the back-end which then takes a 20 second clip and presents it to the user who can then comment and post it to the social network. People are posting to twitter anyway…with a clip of the event added it makes it more engaging.

They also provide a platform to broadcasters to leverage this use case. Here is a recent example.

Others in the engagement space include:

  • Umami, ConnecTV – TV platform
  • Media-Sync – Nielsen + Digimarc platform
  • TVTak – focus on media recognition. Uses both audio & video fingerprinting to identify show in 1 sec
  • Gracenote – Similar to IntoNow

TV Guidance

We are all familiar with the TV grid we call the program guide. Being an X-Y grid helps navigation with a remote. However in the age of touch screen interfaces and 3D graphics there is no need to be limited by the XY grid.

The Logitech Harmony Link remote and a few others including ZeeBox bring a rich interactive program guide on the tablet that communicate with the set top box to provision the program stream on the TV & get additional information on the shows on demand.

The Logitech Harmony Link connects to the iPad on one end using WiFi and using an IR blaster on the other end to talk to the set top box.

 

 

 

Gaming

Apple’s Airplay technology popularized second screen gaming and ‘video slinging’.  .

Gesture recognition and wireless connectivity enable some good gaming experiences on the TV screen.

Companies like MOVL also bringing a casual gaming platform to TV screens using the cloud to communicate with the TV/Set top.

Increasingly applications will begin to use the cloud to facilitate communication between devices that will change the way we have been used to interacting with what were traditionally passive devices in the living room.

Theres is a point of view that TVs will get dumber with the smarts being handed off to second screen devices. I tend to agree. I have brought up this point in my other posts too.

What we are seeing now are only some of the ways second screen interaction will transform our TV experiences. We are now only limited by our imagination and creativity as the technology pieces are all in place.

Stay tuned…

December 30, 2011

In-home wireless music streaming

My friends and I share a similar taste in music. That’s a problem. Especially come New Year’s eve. The reason is they all come armed with their iPods to DJ. There is invariably a race to pick the seat next to the iPod connected to the stereo, so each one can swap his iPod in and DJ…only till the seat is usurped during a break.

This year I decided to set up a system to beam music wirelessly so there are no more scuffles for the seat.

So here is what I had at home:

-       A Macbook Air (MBA)

-      WiFi router

-       An Apple TV

-       A regular stereo system

-       An LCD TV

-       An iPad

-       USB hard disk drive with my music

Neither my MBA nor my iPad had enough storage to hold my music. So it had to be an external drive.

So here’s what I did:

  1. Connected my external drive to my Macbook Air.
  2. Pointed iTunes on the Mac to the external hard drive (I preferred floola in the past)
  3. Enabled home sharing on my Mac
  4. Turned on my Apple TV connected to the TV. Enabled Airplay.
  5. On the iPad too I enabled home sharing though I am not sure this is required
  6. Connected the TV audio-out to my audio system. Couldn’t connect the optical out of the Apple TV as my stereo doesn’t support an optical input. The Apple TV is connected to TV via HDMI.
  7. Now turned the stereo on
  8. Voila! My iPad listed my entire library from my hard disk via my Mac. I airplayed songs via my iPad on to apple TV which in turn sent it to the TV and in turn sent it to the audio system.
  9. Complex but plays nice. Can’t complain about audio quality.

Only one problem though…it takes 5 seconds to switch songs. Bummer! But I wont let it dampen my excitement this New Year!

Happy New Year!

Update: I used the iPad only to search and airplay music videos from YouTube but used the iTunes playlists accessible from the apple TV most of the time. No time lag to switch songs.

December 29, 2011

Audio…the next big thing

While tablets & smart TVs got everyone’s attention this year two products rekindled my interest in audio

1. The ZVOX soundbar &

2. Hidden Radio companion speakers

One is trying to address the inconvenience of dealing with a clutter of wires and speakers in your living room and the other addresses mobility. Interestingly both of them are related smart TVs and tablets respectively.

ZVOX has been using psychoacoustic modeling to simulate surround sound with stereo speakers. If you think about it, you only have 2 ears and so even though you may have 5 speakers what matters is how the sound is perceived in the brain using your 2 ears.

Listen to this with your headset on and it will give you a feel for what I mean.
Of course in this case the content has been encoded with the right sound to produce this effect.

If you can simulate this effect, the number of speakers don’t matter. Why then would you need 5 speakers and a subwoofer (not to mention the 7.1 system) and all the complex wiring and placement that go with it?

Of course this is easier said than done given the complex signal processing and form factor limitations.

SoundBars have come a long way and are no longer being dubbed gimmicky. AuraSound,  announced in Nov 2011 that it shipped its one millionth TV soundbar in just over two years from initial product launch. The market for soundbars is growing at a fast clip with some analysts predicting over 100% year on year.

I came across ZVOX mentioned in more than one article over the last few months and was intrigued. While I have heard others I haven’t heard ZVOX so I can’t speak for the quality though it appears they have some good reviews including one from Stereophile calling it an “audiophile system”.

I heard a Philips soundbar recently and I have to say at $650 the soundbar’s audio quality was comparable to a more expensive 5-channel home theatre system.

With TVs getting slimmer and slimmer, from CRT to Plasma to LCD to LED and now OLED the real estate for speakers on TVs is shrinking rapidly to the point that they literally have to be split from the screen.

It has since become almost necessary to add external speakers for a decent experience. Another reason soundbars have become popular.

While I am sure ZVOX and the rest are not yet true audiophile quality they are extremely convenient and most importantly, good enough for many.

Soundbars need to generate about 100w of power to be of value. Generating this energy from small form factors can be quite the challenge.
Overcoming the algorithmic challenges and physical limitations of these speaker arrays to rival traditional systems will be the focus in 2012 because we all know there is a demand for them.

Ever since the iPod came out there has been a proliferation of speaker accessories including docks. However smartphones & tablets with a decent amount of storage (not to mention cloud based streaming services) have got consumers increasingly listening to music on their phones.

All these docks required you to place iPods on the dock. Selecting & changing tracks was a pain, as you had to be physically next to the dock. With Bluetooth technology being omnipresent on phones many of these docks will begin to support wireless control and playback. The earlier concern over the quality of Bluetooth audio is now fading with A2DP adoption.

I predict that we will see use of  Bluetooth over Apple’s Airplay because it covers a larger market

Unfortunately to get better quality sound the docks started getting larger and larger defeating the whole purpose of portability. Which is why the Hidden Radio‘s wireless speaker caught my attention with their unique design that increases the physical volume of the speaker as you “unscrew” it. The same action also increases the volume of the audio.

Bluetooth speakers have grown over 390% and still command only about 10% of the dock market leaving a lot of room for growth. The challenge once again is to deliver compelling sound & yet keep them portable.

Innovations in design, algorithms, materials and amplifier electronics will continue to address this growing market in 2012.

The biggest advantage audio has is that one can multitask while listening to music. With video you pretty much have to have dedicated time. Hence audio/music occupies more of your time than most other activity during the day.

No wonder Mary Meeker predicts that Audio will be BIG next year.

September 14, 2011

The SmartWatch has arrived…again

 

I am one of those guys who carries his mobile phone in his pocket. In fact with screens becoming bigger & phones consequently heavier I almost always need a belt to hold my pants in place :-)

Don’t get me wrong. I love the large screens.

What annoys me is the fact that every time I get a notification the phone chirps and I feel obligated to check out the message. I have to reach into my pocket, slip out the case, press the ‘Power’ button, unlock the phone, slide my hand over the top of the screen and click on the message to read it. Call me a lazy ass, but this has become cumbersome, especially considering the number of notifications I get these days – credit card purchases, e-mail, text messages, chat messages, alarms etc. One can argue that I could disable notifications…. but I want them.

The problem is compounded when you are sitting in a car or a restaurant and the phone chirps. Extricating the phone out of your pocket is no easy task. To avoid this many of us tend to leave the phone on the table. This of course means you have to remember to pick it up when you leave.

The cell phone has rendered a lot of devices useless – the calculator, the alarm clock, personal radio and others. It hasn’t got rid of the watch yet though sales are beginning to dip.

However the convenience of knowing the time at an instant is still only possible with the watch. Not to mention its role as a style statement.

Microsoft launched SPOT watches in 2003 to some good reviews but while they were good concepts they were not practical – bulky, low battery life, expensive and came with a wireless service subscription plan!

However there seems to be revival of sorts now with a bunch of new players getting into the game with everything from programmable watches to iPod Nano straps. Technology – OLED screens, low power silicon, touch interfaces, low power Bluetooth connectivity and smartphones with ubiquitous connectivity to the web have helped.

I follow this space with interest because I am looking for a solution that frees me from having to dig into my pockets and go thru the entire rigmarole to read my notifications.

I was first impressed with tiktok – the iPod Nano straps. The Nano is a neat form factor, nice screen and a great touch interface. However it is not programmable and not connected to the external world.

There is a rumor that Apple is going to introduce a Nano with a camera and low power Bluetooth for connectivity.

The I’m watch though is connected and has a bunch of apps. All watches need to do is connect to cellphones via Bluetooth and pick up notifications from the cell phone. The phone remains in your pocket but with just a flick of your wrist you read the notification. When the phone rings you can do the same and screen your calls before deciding to answer. If these phones were also connected to a wireless headset you can answer it without ever reaching for your phone.

This is useful particularly for one-handed use cases – driving, standing in a bus or train etc.

The I’m phone comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack, power connection, microphone & built-in speakers. It claims a talk time of 3 hours with speaker phone and a standby time of 30 hours with Bluetooth and supports audio and video playback.

The programmability of the watch brings other useful features like different clock faces to match your clothes, mood or setting, temperature, heart rate monitors, twitter feeds etc.

InPulse is another company that is working on bringing programmable phones to the market. Though I have to admit they lack the aesthetic appeal of the I’m and LunaTik. It may appeal to the hacker as it offers a downloadable SDK and simulator to develop apps. Not convinced they will be popular though.

The touch interface can also be used effectively as a TV, iPod and music system remote.

You could even use the watch to locate your phone.

Since you rarely have to take your phone out of your pocket the chances of you misplacing it significantly reduces.

With recent news that a bunch of industry veterans including the heads of Fossil’s connected watch group have acquired the assets of Meta Watch, this space is beginning to get interesting.

I for one am very excited about it and will be watching the space closely.

January 3, 2011

Do you need a set top to navigate web videos on TV?

Image source: http://www.slashgear.com/boxee-box-to-feature-webkit-browser-push-html5-09101577/

Do you need a set top box to navigate and view web videos on your TV? I am not convinced. I am a little skeptical of the success of an additional set top box (Logitech Revu, Boxee Box, Roku) in our crowded living rooms especially when there may be alternatives in the very near future. You could argue that eventually the set top box functionality will be incorporated into the television. I am skeptical about the success of that too.

I think we need to just look at the television as a large screen. The engines that deliver content need not be part of this set up. For example a tablet or phone with WiDi capability could well be that engine. The large screen will just give you a larger (and better) visual experience. Video content delivery & the video browse capability can be driven thru a device you already own & are familiar with. These are devices you carry with you and hence more likely to collect and discover video on. Since you already use this device for your on-the-go video consumption it is only technology that limits you from using this on your TV. And that tech is already available (thru WiDi and its variants), albeit in its crude form. Refine this and you eliminate the need for an additional set top.

The video browse and discovery experience is then all software that runs on one of these devices (tablet/phone). The reason I don’t include the PC as an alternative is that it is rather cumbersome to have a laptop with you when you want to sit back and navigate a TV screen. A dedicated PC with a HDMI cable connected to the TV is as inconvenient & expensive as a set top box so I won’t cover that. A phone (or tablet) is much more convenient. A less appealing alternative is to use the PC (with a wireless connection to the TV) but with a remote. The PC itself takes a while to boot and is much more clunky than a phone. The instant-on capabilities of a phone or tablet is much more conducive to impulsive web video viewing.

I would relegate TVs to the same class of devices as speakers (& amplifiers). With speakers, the focus is on delivering better sound. The source for this sound is still the cd/dvd player. With music shifting online, you see more and more people connecting their iPods (touch & wifi enabled) to their music systems.
Similarly for TVs I see more and more people connecting their iPads to their TVs. TV manufacturers will probably be better off spending time working on ways to display better quality video, larger, lighter, brighter screens, better wireless connectivity etc.

I think with the right software running on these handheld devices one can cross that chasm of navigating web video on TVs much faster. Not to mention that you save anywhere from &100-$300 by not buying a set top box.

That being said, I still think there is going to be a cable TV box connected to your TV. This cable box is going to deliver popular hi-def content in the most efficient way to TV screens. These will have internet connectivity and will eventually have web video capability. However, I still think that while these hybrid set tops will be popular, it might still be more convenient for a user to set up, organize, collect & discover video thru a personal device such as the tablet or PC. Not to mention the plethora of options that the open web brings with it. Navigation will probably be thru the phone or tablet (and not the PC).

The odd thing with this convergence is that while people are used to web video on their PCs they want similar choices on their TV screens. This breaks business models as I have mentioned in the past. Hence the “non availability” of web video content on TVs is a turn-off. Additionally people have got used to using TVs in a certain way and their PCs in a certain way. Bridging this gap is a challenge. The PC is a lean forward experience and the TV is a lean-back experience. The tablet on the other hand is a good mix of both. Ask anyone and they will tell you how cool it is to consume video on a tablet. Unfortunately you can’t magnify the tablet screen to be the size of a TV…so the next best thing is to beam the video to the TV screen wirelessly and then use the tablet experience to navigate and the large TV screen to view the video.

http://mrarrah.wordpress.com/category/technology/pocket-projectors/

Another technology has the potential to change this “TV experience” and that is the ability to project video from a phone/tablet to a large screen. This could technically eliminate the need for a TV screen…but if you ask me the TV screen as of now has a better display quality than a projector.

Rollable displays is a another technology that will help you carry a big screen in your pocket/bag….though given the state of this technology today (yields for one), it might be more apt for a phone to use this tech to convert to a tablet. It is unlikely a tablet will be able to convert to a TV screen with this tech in the near future.

CES 2011 will highlight a few devices with these capabilities I am sure.

Stay tuned…

December 11, 2010

Cutting the cord & its impact on the TV industry

cutting the cord
cutting the cord – courtesy technologizer.com

There is a lot of talk of users cutting the cord and going over the top. There is speculation that cable subscribers will stop paying their cable bills since content is available online for free. How does this effect the TV industry?

You could argue that the content guys shot themselves and the cable guys in the foot by putting content on the web for free. This can be disastrous for the cable industry as in most cases the cable guys have to pay the network/content guys money to deliver their “premium” content to their subscribers. If the subscribers (subs) cut the cord and don’t pay their cable bills how do the cable guys in turn pay the content guys? In the US alone this is an $80b industry. (TV advertising is another $75-$80b industry.)

Now if subscribers indeed cut the cord one could argue that the content guys will still make some (but substantially less) revenue thru advertising – pre-rolls, post-rolls & mid-rolls. The cable industry however will collapse.

While we discussed 2 players in the value chain there is a third player that is as befuddled as the other two and that is the ISP. With online video beginning to take off, networks are beginning to get clogged. Current all-you-can eat pricing is not sufficient to meet the demands of large scale HD video consumption.  ISPs have to spend money to improve their infrastructure but with very little to no increase in their ARPU (Avg. Revenue Per User).

I suspect the days of completely free access to network shows online are numbered. While networks can block Google TV and the likes for sometime, eventually technology will beat these restrictions. For example there are already ways to beam content on your PC screen wirelessly to the TV. What will the content guys block then? Firefox? IE? Chrome?

In order to protect revenues content will have to be placed behind pay walls universally, regardless of the device it is accessed on. What people need to understand is that devices are just different means to access the web. You can’t start differentiating devices. The lines are blurring…and fast.

Verizon, Comcast and others are already experimenting with ways to give their paying subs access to content on multiple devices. This of course has to be synchronized with content being put behind pay walls to be effective. On other devices (non TV) there are no existing business models that are threatened and so both content and cable guys will rush to deliver content on these devices. Of course the device guys are now trying to figure out how to get a piece of the pie to help boost their falling margins.

The ISPs are moving away from all-you-can-eat plans to limited, pay as you go plans. Thus forcing the subscriber to choose between watching a show thru cable or via the web.

I suspect this will be the business model going forward…at least in the near future. Subscribers are used to paying for content. So before they get too used to free content it is a good idea to move to a paid model.

I may not be the most popular guy for saying this but I feel this will bring in some kind of order back to the breaking system. I am personally of the opinion that popular content should be broadcast, as this is the most efficient use of the medium. Niche content can and will most probably be multicast or unicast (IP based). You don’t want IP networks being completely clogged by video, disrupting delivery of other services.

All of this pay wall stuff does offer a great opportunity for new content players to leverage this potential void of free content. Publishers like the New York Times who didn’t have a way to reach audiences thru cable now use the web. Advertising revenues are a welcome addition to their financials.

Similarly content channels like Howcast that clipchef that host instructional videos and cookery shows respectively are available to an audience that never had access to these over TV. These are exclusively made for the web.

Other shows like Funny or Die, College Humor etc. are rapidly gaining a worldwide audience that they would find hard to attract by being on US cable alone.

As people discover more and more of these “free” shows, revenues for the publishers will improve through advertising and the quality of content will improve. Overtime this could threaten traditional cable shows and exercise further strain on existing business models for cable shows.

With the cost of production and distribution coming down significantly over the years more and more of these shows are going to pop-up. Many will become popular and viral and compete for eyeballs with these other cable shows. I am not just talking about amateurs but professionals like Cosmo Girl, Huffington Post, and Revision 3 etc.

The concept of prime time TV will change as soon as all these shows are available on demand on multiple screens. This will affect advertising rates. Additionally with IP based delivery targeted advertising will deliver more efficiency on dollars spent on advertising. User interaction and engagement will deliver new forms of revenue sources and increase loyalty and fan following.

Right now the TV industry is going thru absolute disruption and the sooner traditional players in the value chain adapt to this the better it will be for all concerned.

Stay tuned….

August 21, 2010

Search The Google TV Interface

Image Source: From the newteevee website

Just got a glimpse of the upcoming Google TV interface with this article on newteevee. While Google TV is packed with features, it still feels a bit geeky. The UI doesn’t seem very rich…I expect this will be spruced up by the time they launch. My biggest concern however is how they are still pushing search as the primary means to navigate. At least that is how it appears when I see this demo.
Sitting 10 feet away, with a small remote control that doubles up as a keyboard may seem cool, but I am not so sure it is practical. The argument in favour of a keyboard is that people ‘text’ on their phones all the time so they should be comfortable with this. The fundamental difference is that when you text on the phone, you are also looking at the screen so you know what you are typing. However when you text on a TV screen, you have to look at the TV screen 10 feet away as well as keep an eye on the keyboard in your hand.
It’s not as if this can’t be done. It’s just that it is a very geeky. My mom would find this use case  extremely difficult. It might work with my 15 year old nephew though… we’ll know soon enough.
Moreover, I believe when you are in front of a TV screen you want it to be a predominantly lean back experience. Yes there are occasions like a football game when you might want to be more expressive and tweet/share your thoughts with your buddies…but most of the time you would like it to be relaxing. People are used to watching their TV with just a remote. While that paradigm might change going forward. It won’t happen overnight. So I still think a leanback experience will be the use case with more interactivity being added on over a period of time.

That being said…navigation on Google TV is not all search based. You do have drop down menus to navigate. However one can’t help but notice the underlying expectation that search will be the pivot for navigation.

Search is in Google’s DNA. So expecting anything else would be naive.

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May 18, 2010

The Google TV set top

The latest news from SlashGear is that the Google TV set top box will be something that will be daisy chained to the existing cable/satellite set top and not replace it. This is something we have considered before and has a lot of potential.

My guess is that internet content will be overlayed on top of existing cable TV content. Also, the UI will be a lot cooler since this box will now be the master control.
Based on the service provider the program guide information can be read from the from the internet directly.
This, combined with internet TV middleware can be used to provide additional information on the programs on TV like interviews with actors, similar shows, photos etc. that are available online, on demand.
It will also give the user easy access to other online video not available on cable/satellite TV including YouTube videos

However the biggest benefit is to Google and the cable companies (assuming Google shares info with them) who now have access to information on which show was watched by which household and when. The holy grail of TV ratings & advertising- real time, legitimate statistics. This can have a huge impact on their programming schedules, budgets as well as targeted advertising. I believe for Google and the rest of this partnership  this is the perfect way to enter the living room where most advertising dollars are spent anyway.

Smart move by Google and team. Time will tell if they can pull it off. Will consumers want to spend $300 on yet another box in the already cluttered living room? We’ll know soon enough.

Stay tuned….

March 18, 2010

Is internet TV the best use of bandwidth

I recently read 3 very interesting posts on the above topic. The debate between Mark Cuban and Avner Ronen at SXSW. Clearly very strong points of view.
These are Mark’s points of view:
Don’t waste the internet on TV
Internet TV vs Music vs Newspapers et al.

This is Avner’s point of view:
The future of TV

I agree with both of them. Now that might seem a bit odd given that they seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Here is what I believe.

For the foreseeable future both cable/broadcast and internet TV will co-exist. Both bring with them their inherent advantages.

Broadcast delivers video at the least cost per bit and is an efficient use of the medium whereas internet TV provides addressability, interactivity and personalization.

I believe that the most popular shows should and will be broadcast in all their glory – HD, 3D what not and the long tail of content will be delivered on demand. Now long tail has many different connotations these days. However I look at the long tail as video that does not have mass appeal. In addition there is a lot of video out there that will probably not be shown on your TV broadcast/cable – videos from the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, Funny or Die, Daily Mirror, Maxim, Cosmo, Stanford, MIT classes etc.

All of the above have built videos for the internet. However its ironical that funny or die is now going to TV. As Eric Schmidt mentioned in his Abu Dabhi media summit, this might be the way shows are created and distributed in the future. First create shows on the internet. Test with an audience with the least amount of production capital and if there is mass appeal move it to the broadcast medium.

The big problem with the internet (also its biggest advantage) is that it is 2-way. This means that the bandwidth has to be shared across users. More users, means more bandwidth split and more unpredictability. Quality of service on the internet is a big concern as you move from SD to HD and beyond.

So very soon you will find hybrid set top boxes that will give you both broadcast content as well as an internet connection for the back channel and video on demand capabilities (There is a new standard Hbb being proposed). I believe this hybrid setup will be the way forward for a while to come.

Now, that being said I have seen that broadband video is the norm in S.Korea. Very few people actually watch broadcast TV. So in theory it is possible to expand TV on internet to a larger population like in the US. However is it the best use of the medium?

That’s the question Mark is asking. And I don’t think using internet video for all video content is the best possible use. If you want to break the shackles of linear TV for that popular American Idol show use a DVR. You will get it in all its glory – full HD, sorround sound, 3D etc.

When people start appreciating bandwith as a limited commodity like water, fuel & electricity then some of these visions might begin to look like excesses. Especially when we realize that other deserving services are being starved of this precious resource.

January 28, 2010

iPad: disappointing


The iPhone was ground breaking. The iPad not so. I was always convinced that the iPad would not be as ground breaking as the iPhone. And even if it was, others would quickly catch up. No OEM was going to be caught sleeping on this one. Job’s claims netbooks are cheap notebooks. Maybe. But this is an expensive iPhone. The only thing nice about the iPad is that it is thin. But from what I read on engadget it isn’t even light.

The UI – Apple’s forte is not very ground breaking. Everything that you see here can be built on an Android device too.

Speaking of that, whats the deal with the lack of Flash support. If anyone noticed, when Job’s was demonstrating the browser…I think it was Time or NYT there was a missing plug-in. When 75% of internet videos are flash based, why go out of your way to un-support it. So, with the iPad you are pretty much restricted to YouTube streaming. No Hulu. I was smiling to myself when Job’s played a YouTube video – A dog surfing….in HD!! I mean what more could you ask for? That’s exactly the reason I want an iPad – to watch dogs on skateboards!!!

The TFT while supposedly brilliant is not the best for reading books. It is backlit. It may look pretty but its no e-book, especially if you are a serious reader. It will be a strain on your eyes.

No multitasking yet again…the Android folks must be thrilled.

What’s with the pricing? $700? Ridiculous if you ask me. An atom (1.6GHz) + ion netbook with full HD and graphics support is available for $350. $200 MIDs based on NVIDIA’s Tegra or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon with flash support would compete directly with the iPad

There are a lot of tablets in the pipeline from many OEMs. I was looking for the perfect one. I thought Apple would be the first one to get it right. Unfortunately they have got a lot of things wrong this time. I suspect there will be several new tablets that will be better and cheaper than the iPad. I for one would prefer to buy one of those than the iPad. But then I am not one for brands…so who knows, the iPad may still be very successful.

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