Forget the NBN – movies streamed almost instantly over the net are here already and a swarm of new entrants are putting a strain on traditional players like DVD stores.

A report released this week by Credit Suisse found that while not yet mainstream in Australia, “IPTV is here” and would continue to drive the take-up of internet video over the next few years.

The newest player in the IPTV market is Quickflix, which has long offered mail order DVD rentals but recently began unlimited online streaming services via PCs, Macs, internet-enabled TVs and the PlayStation 3.

What makes a TV truly smart? Currently, a “smart” TV means an Internet-enabled TV which can deliver OTT as well as traditional broadcast media. Basically, this encompasses on-demand streaming (e.g. Netflix) and a few other applications.  However, this approach prevents TV’s from reaching their potential – true intelligence requires more.

One of the biggest problems facing today’s Smart TV model is its very limited application space. Most TVs are tied to a specific, closed set of applications (the proverbial “walled garden”) and there is no common platform that enables developers to easily bring applications across multiple TV brands. The result is that, outside of a handful of common applications, there is a small hodgepodge of different applications for different TV brands. This limits the ability of developers to reach users and forces the customer to learn a new TV-based application interface for each new smart TV they use.

People talk about creating one common Smart TV platform (Yahoo widgets, Google TV, and now MeeGO), but this is a difficult job, and none of these efforts has met with much success. But this problem has been solved for PCs, now even tablets and mobile phones. These platforms have huge numbers of apps, games, etc. that consumers recognize and enjoy. There are common platforms for developers and common user interfaces that consumers understand.  

So what makes a truly smart TV? First, be a TV! TV’s should let consumers easily leverage all of the other applications and content currently available on their laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Sure, support some easy applications internally in the TV if that is what consumers want (e.g. video streaming), but do not force the customer to put down their laptop, tablet or smartphone just to bring content or applications to the TV screen.

A truly smart TV allows a user to access any program or content in any manner, on the device of his or her choice. If the user prefers to access social media link on a mobile device, a truly smart TV should enable him to do so. In other words, a truly smart TV is a TV that enables smart connectivity. This is where the WHDI standard (Wireless Home Digital Interface) can help.

The content that people want is already in their hands, in systems they know well. Why take away this familiarity? If the app they want to use is on their phone, let them use their phone! If the app is also on the TV and the user wants to use it, great, but if not, WHDI will bring it from any device, in real time, to the TV.

With WHDI, it is possible to mirror devices that people are using to give them a better experience rather than ignoring those devices. Giving TVs Internet connectivity via Wi-Fi or otherwise is a great achievement, but for true intelligence, TV makers need to realize that personal entertainment does not exist exclusively within their boxes and they have to engage the user on his or her own terms.


09 May 2011

Optus today announced that it is partnering with FetchTV to jointly develop an IPTV service with integrated mobile functionality for smartphones and tablet devices.

The service is scheduled for launch in the second half of 2011 and is part of Optus’ broader TV strategy to develop a suite of converged video services, delivering choice and control for customers whether they’re at home or on the move.

Austin R. Bryan, Director, Optus Digital Media said, “The way people view and engage with video content is changing rapidly. Optus wants to be at the forefront of this change which is why we’re partnering with FetchTV to develop a unique TV offering across multiple devices.

“With its strong content line-up and innovative delivery platform, we believe FetchTV is the best partner to help us develop a service which will provide customers with a fantastic user experience,” Mr Bryan said.

Scott Lorson, CEO, FetchTV said, “FetchTV has spent the past three years developing advanced IPTV capabilities and a compelling catalogue of content. Partnering with an operator of Optus’ scale, brand and reputation is a significant milestone for FetchTV and we look forward to working with Optus to launch a unique and compelling entertainment service.”

Pricing and specific details of the Optus service will be available closer to launch.