Archive for ‘Intenert TV’

January 3, 2011

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

Image source:

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.

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…

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….