The IPTV World Forum show was buzzing with booths and vendors and typically the Olympia being an intimate venue meant that everyone could see everyone else and gauge visits to competitive stands.
In my opinion “technologically speaking” it was too much of a “fragmented offering of multifaceted ways to offer video on a TV screen”. Each similar solution focused 80% of the time on the managed network with the addition of OTT services, or it was CE and STB Equipment manufacturers showing off their retail box software. The problems of the industry were highlighted by all players fighting to gain a foothold as the leading company in this market. SMALL AND LARGE COMPANIES: ESPIAL, NOKIA SIEMENS, MICROSOFT (Media room) and others were present especially those small to medium IPTV end-to-end players and if Twitter was to be believed Dreampark is the world’s leading IPTV player…Aren’t we all!
ANT showed the very retro looking ZDF portal (using HbbTV) that ironically resembled ZDF’s MHP portal offering of 2004. We thought that it was supposed to be going forwards but it just shows that Public Service Interactive is not driven by innovation but rather by cost; especially when it is delivered for free. Innovation was not really there – there was no wow-factor in HbbTV. Another example of lack of innovation was at Rovi who showcased the now clunky looking American Grid EPG – It was an open stand and they had a procession of CE Manufacturers all looking gloomy – I wonder why?
There was a smattering of niche players for Browser based STBs – What it did show that in HTML everyone “believes it is easy to do”….BUT nobody is really offering a solution to the main problem of Multichannel TV today which the fight to control the remote control. Each offer at the show was very much showing a SINGLE service perspective i.e. ONE ADDITIONAL OTT OFFER or SET of OTT SERVICES to the Consumer – even if that service was a complex looking SEESAW (New VOD Portal) from the UK (On the Amino STBs).
CONTROL OF THE REMOTE: Delivering video, controlling it, combining it and all the other back office elements involved are very complex and customers care not a dot about that. They actually want simplicity and our industry is not heading that way. This is a very clear reminder to the Broadcasters that they have all but lost control of the Remote Control unless they act quickly…The Operator have time to maneuver BUT they too are being attacked by OTT services.
MULTISERVICE GUI: A 32inch flatscreen (average size in the UK home) is designed to enable video and audio and the industry is cluttering it up with PiP, Banners, Portals, Tickers, Search engines, Transparent Overlays, Messaging etc. However the reason this is a problem in IPTV is due to the OTT element – Multiple Companies trying to populate a single screen…It just does not work! That is the problem nobody can solve as IPTV, OTT, Connected TVs, Broadcasters and Operators all want the Consumer business.
APPLE LIKE: We see a growth in the GUI trying to replicate the APPLE experience (THE KT DEMO AT ALTICAST IS ABOUT THE BEST I HAVE SEEN TO DATE) … The other issue is that equipment limitations ask us to cut down the software (make a light version), limit the API calls and streamline whilst trying to offer very, very complex Multimedia to the TV.
SIMPLICITY: One of the best products from a vendor at the show for simplicity was Kaon’s WEBTUBE STB which is really an Android Samsung Mobile Phone with TV connectivity. Connected to a spare TV input you have access (via the Webtube wifi) to your broadband connection. There is FULL web access through a simple interface – including widgets for youtube etc. There is no need for web browsers on your STB and also this device gives access to “unmanaged OTT services” if you so desire. The fascinating thing about this device is that at the press of a button on the remote control you get instant full on internet to the Screen…no booting of the PC and a very, very quick solution to WWW on the Television.
COLLABORATION IS THE ONLY WAY: All in all the show was a “Browser War” and “GUI Festival” but again I re-iterate that nobody showed how “all the parties with a vested interest in owning the remote control” could actually work in harmony. Because they Cannot at this point in time! (Only KT+Broadcasters and SKYLIFE + QooKTV have shown collaborative effort to make a sensible Consumer offer) . This is the hardest path to see happening in EMEA – Collaboration may come but only when it is all too much of a struggle to be independent and grow.
HTML APPEARS TOO EASY (ON THE SCREEN): For years we have said that it is not good enough and it cannot do what MHP can do and this is never tested side by side (except in the lab)…”Single Application” presentation engine software is outdated and outmoded but hey if you hide it well enough and make it pretty nobody will notice right?…..In fact the IPTV WF showed that there is an even greater problem which is that if it is all too easy to do, then many can do it. There is a proliferation of complex browser solutions and browser based MEDIACENTER Products – There is another proliferation of BROWSER BASED STBs and iDTVs (Connected TVs) and it is all very fragmented as each chooses a DIFFERENT Browser and different Style or Different Content approach.
STANDARDS AN ISSUE: It is difficult to see how the industry can build a standard Browser and offer a GUI that is ubiquitous: This is a REVENUE DRIVEN MARKET and ALL companies are looking for that WINNING POSITION! Many think that they have a head start. Do I think that a web based browser will win in TV land? Well I had to ask because I do not believe that “on it’s own” it can be a solution: The answer from those I asked who have based there future on a browser told me “of course”: BUT what I also learnt was: “as long as it’s theirs”.
FUTURE: There will be another round of disruption in “Interactive TV” as we have to get over this re-kindled Browser mess – HYBRID is the only words used to describe the future of Interactive TV: That MUST contain OTT services. Eventually consolidation will come around 2011-2014 as the market tightens and the failure of WEB-BASED solutions will feel the chaos that is the Internet. There is a long way to go and the market turmoil allows for experts to come through…but not repeating the past as we are today.