Internet & Television; Where are The Technologists Taking Us?

Recently the Netflix CEO stated that the “Web browser is television’s future”! I personally have a feeling that it was perhaps the journalist that simplified the title of the piece based on the opinions of Mr. Hastings, due to the fact that it is a mighty broad statement for anyone to make? Mr. H also gave the prediction a spread-bet of 5 to 20 years on this wonderful insight into the very obvious coming together of Internet and the TV. Ultimately this does hint of a timely lobbying piece most likely intended to strengthen Netflix’s position with respect to Microsoft who is named as a potential suitor. What Mr. H may not be aware of is that since 1995 the “Internauts” amongst us have been claiming the same TV and Internet marriage via a “browser” and have been trying very, very unsuccessfully to “make it so captain”. This particular “paradigm” and I hate that nonsensical word, has been a long and difficult road with several very fundamental problems; one of which is that most of the technology is just not fit for purpose and most of all the business model still needs crafting:

History Repeating Itself

  • 1995 WebTV Founded based on HTML (failed)
  • 1998 (ATSC) HTML is a poor environment for television (clear)
  • 2000 Major goals of “ATVEF” was to create a specification that relies on existing and prevalent standards (HTML/JS) (failed)
  • 2002 Broadcast HTML was created from ATSC-related work to develop the DTV Application Software Environment (DASE) (failed)
  • 2006 The DVB-PCF embodies a high-level declarative model that is based on industry standard formats, including XML syntax, MIME types and UML (failed)
  • 2009 TV manufacturers bet on WEB TV with CE-HTML (?)

So what is the opinion of the Netflix CEO worth? Will we all run out to purchase new TV sets with Ethernet connectors and browsers on them? Will we start running yards of Cat5 cabling around the house in order to reach the modem 3 rooms away, not to mention on the other floor level, in order to access the internet via the ADSL modem, or perhaps sacrifice the only electrical sockets near to the TV to Ethernet over Powerline? In fact talking of that browser element, which browser, whose browser? This is a very pertinent point, especially as Microsoft has to now ship with alternative browsers to its own Internet Explorer. There seems to be no holding back the flood of predictions in the TV Internet debate and naturally in this very complex technological world CEOs are considered the experts in their fields of endeavour.

What I would like to point out for the purposes of a historical review is that many companies have wanted to ride this horse. In on example Sony have been at it for years, 14 years in effect and then we see via more written interviews found on the WWW that the goal is still to be achieved.

  • In 1996 Sony launched the INT W250 – Web TV receiver – WebTV Plus – 56 Kbps – RAM 16 MB
  • On January the 7th , 2007 at CES this announcement was made: SONY BRINGS INTERNET VIDEO TV TO THE LIVING ROOM – Broadband Internet Video Access Available Via Modules Attached to New Televisions – Broadband Internet video was the hit of 2006 and now it’s coming to Sony televisions with the touch of a remote control button.
  • Then in 2008 the SONY DMX-NV1 BRAVIA INTERNET VIDEO LINK WEB TV DMXNV1 hit the streets

However Sony at a conference/seminar this year was asked by a journalist when we the consumer will see products from Sony that simply offer an EPG (program guide) mixing cable and Internet video. The response was not surprising; Sony responded that they may not be available until 2010 or later as this takes time! Sony added that they would love it to occur tomorrow and that they are very frustrated.”

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