Monday, October 25, 2010

It's all about the video - idiot!

The most amazing invention in the world, after sliced bread, cars and cellphones is ... high definition television! There's been lots of well-deserved buzz over the last few weeks about self-driven cars; an interesting future ahead, but let's talk about what's currently on the pop charts!

It's all about video!!

I just realized that I pay more in (average) monthly bills to Comcast than I do to PG&E!! After food and shelter, I effectively pay more to my video provider - more than I pay per month in gas. The irony is that there's not much TV I watch - maybe a couple of DVRed shows per week. But when I watch something cool on HDTV, it's worthwhile - world cup soccer, NFL football (even when the damn Cowboys lose), CSI Miami (it does not matter how stupid the storyline is, or how hackneyed the acting, the faked-out colors of Miami are gorgeous, pixel by turquoise pixel)

Therefore, independent of wondrous phones and colorful book readers, the big screen is here to stay - I call it the form-factor discontinuity. That's also why Netflix, Apple and Google are all playing for the TV market, since you'll always have users in front of the gorgeous screen. If you consider games as interactive video, the case becomes even stronger. My boys were just pointing out one of the recent PS3 games, and the comment was, "it's just like being in a movie".

It is all about the video. Why? Since it's the best way to tell a story. You may not want to watch the story twice, but there's no better way to tell a story than with brilliant HD video and Dolby Surround!!

I'm not sure who will win the TV wars - but Apple TV seemed to go a step away from where we need to be, i.e., device consolidation. They should have made the iPad the AppleTV!! Why can't I just beam video wirelessly from my cell phone/tablet to the television - why do I need yet another device? At least Google TV seems to have tried to worm it's way into the actual television, and is based on the phone OS!! With built-in search, access to all the web via a full-blown browser, there's a chance it can become a convenient portal to photos and all video content, be it high-quality ESPN or Netflix, or crowdsourced or family videos on YouTube. Maybe Flash videos too :-) Of course, it would help if Hulu, NBC, ABC, CBS stop blocking Google TV :-)

Another argument is that it is also going to be the right place to allow you to interact with the web - this is where WebTV failed, but I'm not convinced that's going to be the predominant use of web access (with user interaction and input).

Why? I'm not sure I'm going to start browsing when I am watching a movie or a  world cup game, or my weekly show.  If I do, it will likely be infrequent. There's a reason that the TV is called the idiot box - I like being an idiot when I watch TV. I love the movie experience and I love the entertainment value of television.

Another "killer app" is supposed to be using the TV for calling. Given that Android is the Phone OS, that makes a lot of sense technically. I like that the TV can become a mega-phone, but I suspect it will not be the primary calling station. When Comcast beams the caller on my TV screen when a VOIP call comes in, I'm not jumping to pick up the phone. Why? Because the call is likely a disturbance when I'm watching a movie or a game. Will I place a call while watching a show? Unlikely. Will I use the TV to place the call, when I could Facetime on my mobile phone? Sometimes! Work-related telepresence?

I could be wrong about all this, since I'm the idiot with the idiot box. I like TV for entertainment - pure and simple. This is also why, given time, I have the capacity to watch *anything* on television ... I'll bet that there are many idiots in the world who prefer "recline" to "upright", at least on the living-room couch!

I can see Tweeting and Facebooking during a game or a show, but the real use of Google TV will be to stream audio/video/photos, and possibly, game content. The other stuff will be sidebar activities, also possible with your mobile device (iPad or phone). It's ironic that Facetime belongs to Apple and not Facebook!

So let's look a few years car will drive me to work, and I'll be sitting in the back seat, watching video!!