UBER BE SCARED – It appears that you have a new competitor – The wonderful world of HBBTV has delivered its latest ‘App’ and it may rock the Taxi App World of the Smart-Phone … I cannot imagine when you might be watching TV and suddenly think – I will order a Taxi ! … Well the Czech Republic thinks so. Good luck with that!
Once upon a time we switched on the TV and watched a programme or two, in the evening after we had tea, when the kids were in bed and it was time to settle down to relax. TV Time was limited as the TV signal would shut down at night and eight-year-old Carole Hersee would appear (in the UK at least). We had a choice amongst Light Entertainment and Drama, Documentaries, News and Sport all chosen for us and delivered when somebody else thought best.
Life is a little different now because:
Today we want TV at Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere and we want to watch What We Want, When We Want, Where We Want. We want to watch Live TV, with the use of Pause and Rewind Live TV. And if we miss missed the beginning of something we need Start Over TV so that we can go back to the beginning of the programme that we have joined late. We need Catch-Up TV for shows we have missed. We need to Store Live TV programmes for later viewing on a Hard Drive (Personal Video Recorder) or a Removable Storage device with the possibility of using Series Recording for Binge Watching. We also want to be able to Side Load content onto a Companion Device to consume later when in the garden, or perhaps travelling on a bus or train. We want a Whole Home PVR system or Network PVR so that we can have Follow Me TV that allows us to start watching in one room and then take the content into another room and join it from where we left off in the other room. We want Companion Screen driven TV Everywhere so we can Throw and Fetch programmes from those devices to different screens in the home. We want Over The Top TV so we can have non-Linear content and not be restricted to a Schedule. We want Interactive TV with Applications that allow us access to Weather, or Horoscope or Games and a lot of other stuff all delivered over the Cloud and Home Network. We want to be able to Search for, and Recommend content to other people on Social Media. We don’t want this on a STB or CPE we want all of this on a Smart or Connected TV, in 3D or Ultra HD 4K or perhaps Super Ultra HD 8K. We need it in High Dynamic Range, so that we get the best quality on a Curved OLED, millimetre thick, Flatscreen TV: 24 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week, 365 Days of the Year completely uninterrupted.
TV Content has however NOT broken the boundaries that technology has. Geo-Blocking, Distribution Rights, Landing Rights, Syndication, Franchising and all that shenanigans is hindering and hampering not helping, other than to further slow the transformation of TV – Perhaps that is a good thing?
I have to continually update the LG Smart TV at home (Again last night) – ‘Internet Apps’ on the SmartTV means that I have to follow an upgrade path regardless of whether I use any of the Smarts on the TV or not … When are they going to offer a Monitor App that looks at what you use on a SmartTV then remove the unused items in order to save on Memory and CPU use and therefore reduce ‘updates’? My TV is connected to a PayTV STB with everything I need – I don’t do 3D and Google on TV or any other silly App that expects me to register and pay for content…I already pay for content that I am satisfied with!
The Open-Standard Interactive TV Industry Industry Mocked in an Infographic
When you don’t go to a Trade Show that you have been regularly visiting for the past 8-10 years it is a slightly uncomfortable feeling. It sort of feels like you are missing out on something…but are you really? CES is after all a gadget show and do we need to go if we are not Retailers of Consumer Electronics? What a lot of people do not know is that there is a lot going on behind the scenes in more of a Business-2-Business nature; especially in the Television world that I move in. A lot of networking takes place, and a lot of ‘private suites’ allow for plenty of businessmen to gather, show of their wares in private, discuss and potentially deal-make!
However as a ‘tech journalist’ you might think that things have a different allure. Certainly the BBC’s writer David Pogue has just publishd a very poignant article from his perspective. It can be found in full here: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130104-does-ces-have-a-future
His outlook is that there is mostly years of repetition of technology along with what I call ‘catch-up’ Companies there ‘en-masse’ with cheaper but the same gadgets from the year before and therefore swamping the floors, the industry and the news with old stuff in effect. There is also a decline in the Big Companies with Microsoft having pulled out! Apple is not there either and if Apple is not there how can it truly be called THE Consumer Electronic Show? Qualcomm even did the keynote speech this year – Qualcomm?
Another journalist from our immediate industry Leslie Ellis pointed out that the the trending products were waterpoofing gadgets for your smartphones and tablets. I suspect the Hunting Knife Company and the Mini Flying Helicopters will still be there in the South Hall and that Spearmint Rhino will still get its CES clientele. Ummm, so what is it I miss?
Well in all honestly I do miss it as it kicks off the business year with a hectic, manic traipse around Vegas! Therefore life without an early dose of CES certainly makes for a less-tired more calculated start to 2013.
In 2005 I wrote a book with, an ex colleague, around interactive standards in Digital Television. Last week I participated in the putting to bed of a number of regimes that concerned the principal SDO specification featured in the aforementioned book. In parallel a Patent Pool associated with the technology was also closed as they were unable to make any headway in the licensing of the intellectual property. I have evangelized this technology for years and many of you will know how effervescent I was when it came to the subject…sadly all things come to an end or are replaced by new technology. Over many years Interactive TV has had many ‘endings’ but also many new beginnings…I still believe in the future of TV as a less passive more active experience…so please just watch this space…There is a second coming.
When is a Standard not a Standard? It would seem that it is when it is officially recognised by a Standards Body…after that it just becomes a pawn in the marketing and lobbying of Support Groups for their preferred flavour. First of all it was MHEG which was standardised and not taken up globally for DTT, then came the turn of ACAP & MHP, now its the turn of HbbTV…HTML5 is on the horizon some say Android will reign supreme!
At the recent OTT World Summit held in London where the “worlds television executives” gathered to hear the latest and greatest sales pitches from all & sundry there was yet another Standards discussion. We hear it all the time – We need a Standard! Actually what we get is – My TV system is better than your TV system, My Standard is better than your TV Standard etc. This is not grown up, nor intelligent, always arguing that we do it this way because it’s better than your way! What is at stake? All that SDOs are trying to fix the age old problem of implementing Value Added Services on top of Programming nothing more! It will not help world peace, it will not feed starving families it is just Interactive TV – STOP the fighting! Reunite the SDOs and let’s agree and get on with it so we can develop decent value added services that make a difference! And by the way they are not news portals, nor teletext with pictures thank you very much, we did that 20 years ago!!
It is a fairly tiresome business keeping up with all of this infighting that has taken place over those last 20 years or more, WHY? Because little has changed. As mentioned above the latest proponents of a World Standard for Digital TV is the HbbTV Forum. Their presentation did not have any earth shattering statements, they did not discuss how the particular “product” is made or how it matches up to other Standards – nor the miserable amount of expensive receivers that have NOT been shipped into Germany. They only managed a few stretched truths about its success, but lobbyists and supporters are are guilty of that. (Yes me too!) Despite the announcement today from Spain that it has selected this latest and greatest technology (It is not news it is lobbying) it changes nothing to the overall problem. Take-up and use of Advanced Services needs only one thing – Good and Useful Value Added Services that bring added value to the consumer. Teletext and URLs to video links will just not cut the mustard at 200 Euros a STB! Spanish TV will not flourish because of this selection. France and Germany are a gauge! Counter Lobbying haha!?
Back to the problem of people and standards! During the ensuing OTTWS Panel discussion I stated that the basic technology is still the same. There is a Presentation Engine and a Execution Engine and they either work together or they don’t depending on your chosen poison. Nothing has changed since Digital TV ever appeared. Android is the latest sexy STB & iDTV middleware that we all race to implement as is HTML5 but what are they if they are not Presentation and Execution Engines? Who owns or controls the IPR? You see where this might be heading.
So here is the solution – With Hybrid & Convergence being axiomatic for Digital TV solutions we should ultimately look at CONVERGING Standards Development Organisations and Standards Bodies as well. Do we need different groups rubber stamping a technology? Do we need SDOs all feeding off of each others work? Do we need multiple Standards? Most of all do we need to waste Company time, effort and money on following these different strains of the same thing? And more so is it right that we have disingenuous people sitting on one organisation who have influence, also sitting on the competing one, also in a position of influence, just so their Company ultimately gets their technology (IPR) into one or the other or both of the Standards! Not to mention the ‘blockers’ who attend so their Company can get about selling as much as possible of its proprietary implementation before a standard can be achieved. Because that is all that this is about in reality – Selling stuff.
Standards have become a pawn in the IPR game and the more we move along the more we go backwards to a fully disparate systems all pretending to be “the solution”. But then again why worry about any of this because as I have been told by the authorities that do have the power to change all of this – “Young man, the ‘market’ will decide”! – However from what I personally experienced at the OTTWS which is symptomatic of the Digital TV business, I may never get to see that happen!