May. 11, 2008

Active-TV.org

The Active-TV movement -- the ecosystem that is developing in support of a PC-assisted methodology for getting Internet-based content to your TV -- has a big supporter and resource in Daniel Mann. His recent post shows why PC-assist is a stronger technology than other proposed options. It is inexpensive -- it can be built into almost any networked STB or TV for a negligible increase to the Bill of Materials (BOM), and it is built for the future -- what I mean is that whatever new technologies are used on the Web to support video and other applications, Active-TV can handle them. Since Active-TV leverages the PC's processing power, and PC's can keep up with the new web technologies, it is an elegant solution to the problem. The other options don't offer affordability or sustainability. One option is to offer an expensive incremental STB, but many folks don't want another set-top, much less spend hundreds of dollars on it. Or, you can attempt to build it right into the TV, but in that case the technology will never be able to keep up with the web given the useful life of a TV is 8 yrs -- think about what video formats we were using 8 years ago, in 2000.... I didn't even watch video on the web back then. The fact that they are expensive and not "built to last" leads me to believe they are simply less elegant solutions. But, there is also lots of hesitancy around the Active-TV solution. PC-assist worries TV OEMs. They don't want the proper operation of their TV to depend on another device -- the PC. But -- they need to get over it. The PC is an asset, not a liability, and it can make the TV significantly more functional, opening the door to more content than we ever dreamed we'd be able to consume on our TVs.

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May. 1, 2008

Broadband's Abundance - What Does It Mean

Will Richmond's recent article on Broadand's Abundance really hit home with me. Excerpted:

"Broadband explodes the scarcity model, introducing a world of abundance in which every scarcity constraint is alleviated or erased. Abundance thinking has guided online retailers for years: offering incremental inventory is dirt-cheap, and if made easily discoverable, it will find its buyers."

This is sure to have a profound impact on Broadcast -- cable operators in particular -- and they will need to work to define their role in the Broadband TV/Video world. Why DVR your shows anymore -- when you can simply watch them when you want from the vast Internet library? There are a few reasons in today's world: (1) desire to watch on your TV vs PC and (2) quality. Getting the content from the Internet to your TV still isn't easy (that is what our product ActiveTV does, but it is still in its infancy). And, even with the available technologies, HD isn't an option -- the current Broadband networks simply can't handle High Definition. But, with the pace of advances in Broadband technology, can it be that long before consumer broadband can easily handle HD? And -- given the warm reception ActiveTV and related technologies are getting, can if be long before these become mass market? (I hope not!). 

For sure, it will take a while for Broadcast to go away (It tool 10ish years for Digital Cable to completely replace analog -- from the '96-'02 digital upgrade until '09 when analog will  completely, and in that case, the Cable Operators had incentive to eliminate analog).  The cable companies have one of the most powerful pipes into our homes - something that they can and do leverage as the landscape changes. I am interested to see how they take advantage of their power and address the logical change to storage of content on the Internet vs. at the cable Head End and on our DVRs and the delivery of content via Broadband vs. Broadcast/Cable. It will be an exciting evolution that will, for sure, take much longer than we expect.

What do you think will happen to cable as we know it?

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