No, your future home isn’t ready yet. But fascinating things are going on.
First, we learn about the power of software. In media, we have to deal with two different kind of intangibles: the non-stuff which keeps your silicon running. And the equally volatile software called programming.
Intel, master of all silicon, had to learn it the hard way. After years of trying to build a virtual cable operator of some kind, they finally gave up, offering all bits and pieces to Verizon. Because, with digital media, the box is the really boring part of your value proposition. My iPad 1 has trouble with websites, crashes on whatever, you name it. But I could watch YouTube videos for hours and hours. So the real challenge is software (which could be translated into: we’re leaving Intel’s safety zone.)
As stated above: not all software is created equal. One part is the application software. Run the box, help the user discover what to watch, display the content. That’s already quite challenging. You don’t believe me? Try any TV set at any consumer electronics retailer. UI/UX can be a four letter word.
The real mind-boggles start with the software A.K.A. content. It’s fantastically expensive to produce, has a shelf life of just a couple of years, needs constant updates, and is set up in a legal framework created by some generations of schizoid Kafkas on Crystal Meth.
It definitely had to end like that: Intel, being famous for being driven by paranoia, has left the building.
Nevertheless, your staid old living room is going to change. Soon. (But please apply a TV-related timeframe: TV revolutions are drastic changes in slow motion).
The device makers are still living in a world, where only hardware based features do make a difference. And rightly so: CE product managers mess with software specifications like a blind hobby painter on a canvas after having listened to a Bob Ross-special. After 3D-TV (haha, anybody remember this wet CE-dream?), we now reach out to UHD or 4K or however anybody wants to call it.
Yes, it’s great and everything. But it greatly misses the point. The future of television is not determined by counting pixels, but by making connections: between users, programming, and the money what lies in there (be ist sales or advertising or subscriptions or just hot air).
That’s why I like this report Stacey Higginbotham brought us from CES: Tales of the chips: What CES taught us about hardware, software, and services.
Instead of chips, we should be looking at the types of deals companies are striking to share APIs and SDKs to build out ecosystems in the connected home, the connected car and whatever other connected venues we want to consider. Because just like software has eaten the world, services are doing the same.
She is so right. The monolithic TV set as an entertainment center is yesterday’s news. It sits in your living room like a bloated PC running Windows 95. It talks mostly to itself, it’s ridden by computer viruses and frequent blue screens of death.
The new TV is not about hardware, but about experiences. Facilitated by a lot of different players. Please don’t quote me on the lot of different players part. Media (as in content software) has a strong arm, but tends to approach new technologies always like that:
- let’s sue everybody
- let’s change some laws and then sue everybody
- white knight arrives
- white knight accidentally kills industry
- next industry: goto 1
It already worked with music. Publishing is taking the necessary steps for reaching 6. TV is a latecomer, somewhere between 2. and 4., depending on your market. Hulu and Netflix might even mark the arrival of step 5. I guess we’ll know more in 2020.