Take Your Choice – Screens, Pipes, Content
“The wick is almost out, Felix. All I want is for the candle to glow one last time rather than curse the darkness.” – Oscar Madison, “The Odd Couple II,” Paramount, 1998
Our office system was recently used to watch three segments of Yahoo’s mini-series Cybergeddo (the nine segments total 95 minutes). Except for the less than subtle product placement it was as good as lots of movies and better than most TV fare. Then, as a family, we used our large-screen, interconnected TV to watch the presidential debates. O.K., not as “a family,” but we were in the same room. The wife watched the big screen and another analysis on her ultrabook. Our son streamed it from YouTube on his iPad. Our daughter watched and Tweeted on her smartphone. I watched a little of everyone’s on everything and was reminded of Oscar’s comments, “I don’t care. I agreed. I did my part.”
The Only Screen that Matters
It reminded me of recent comments by Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image, “The only screen that matters is the screen that is in front of you.” It really doesn’t matter which one you’re using for your news, information, entertainment. If you’re pushing TVs you say that nothing is better or more versatile than an interconnected TV–especially one that’s 3D and after CES (Consumer Electronics Show) will have a 4K screen (super, super HD). There’s no 4K content on the horizon, but what the heck! If you’re looking to move a lot of iPads, you say there’s nothing more versatile for enjoying anywhere than a new iPad – better yet, a new iPad + iPad Mini. Of course, when/if iTV arrives, you’ll modify your pitch. If you’re Motorola or Nokia, you say your smartphone is clearly the best. If you sell all of the options, it just doesn’t matter … just buy ‘em! Since what seems like the beginning of time, there was always a TV set in the home. Everyone gathered around it, ate their microwave dinners and watched whatever was on. It isn’t really a profitable business for the manufacturers, but there’s great volume and is becoming a flickering bright light for the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) that runs CES.
To keep the factories humming, the “brands” made a convincing case for more screens – family room, bedroom, media room, out by the pool, kitchen – the more, the merrier. Then, suddenly people began streaming, downloading video, rather than watching whatever the networks, stations, cable folks decided they should watch. Folks could leave the TV and watch stuff anywhere, everywhere with their phone, tablet, laptop.
The television — the very foundation of the home — is becoming just another screen. Oscar looked concerned and said, “Maybe he’s just bluffing.” To keep up, set makers are pushing Web-connected televisions loaded with apps (Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, etc).
The industry tried (and is still trying) 3D, but that hasn’t been very successful because you’re still tied to “their” content; and OMG, there’s so much more available! According to NPD and Nielsen, even with all of the viewing options, the TV set is still the family video viewing solution of choice. NPD said that 45 percent of the web video watched is on the TV set, taking over the #1 spot from the PC. Not that the TV set is necessarily connected to the iNet like the manufacturers envisioned, but there are more options:
* 43 percent connected TVs
* 47 percent VG consoles (Wii, Xbox 360, PS3)
* 62 percent streaming media players (Roku, Boxee, Apple TV)
* 38 percent computers with direct wired connection to TV
* 21 percent of BD players
The switch to web TV has physical cable and networks a little concerned because it means people like Yahoo!, Google, Amazon, Apple and others around the globe could have greater entertainment/news impact and influence. And how difficult could it be for them to have their supply chain knock out a few gazillion very large screen monitors? Oscar was right on when he said, “Tell me when it hurts.” After all, it’s just another screen. And while you “know” the reason you have your computer, iPad, iPhone is for all of the important social networking stuff you have to do, Pew found that watching video clearly outranks everything else you do online.
We recognize that there are a lot of very smart people out there saying we’re seeing the end of the PC world, but we disagree … emphatically. We do work – real work – on our computers (desktop and laptop). We occasionally watch some video; but mostly, we use it for work. Our iPad is for email, conference notes, entertainment. A tablet makes it easy to sit 10-12 inches from the screen and channel surf without irritating the other person watching her favorite show. People can, and do, watch them everywhere – living room, bedroom, porch, kitchen, dining room and yes, even in the bathroom.
Great Personal Viewing
We don’t say the tablet beats the overall quality or immersive value of the big screen set; but when you have something special you want to watch or want to watch your own stuff on a cross-country, cross-pond flight, its ideal. Of course, the rather quietly introduced YouTube.com/TV is a “network” that will really help change the landscape because it looks/feels like TV. Once you’re set up and ready to go, it does away with the old-fashioned menus and boxes you expect to see with any Web/iNet TV. Oscar watched the video on all of the screens and said, “This is the biggest deja vu anybody has ever had.” With offerings like this and Yahoo! TV, our son recently proclaimed that entertainment has finally released to the anywhere, anytime, any device stuff the industry has been touting for years. Even though it has only been available for a little while, he – and others who sorta’ count – say that 21st Century entertainment is really here.
And that has to concern the content control pipe owners. Screens are increasingly becoming more connected. Not just to the Internet, but to one another. As Twist’s Joel noted, the screens are becoming smart pieces of glass and plastic that connect us to our content, and people are increasingly going to watch their screen their way. Unlike Joel, however, we don’t see the PC disappearing from the landscape. There are reasons we have the array of devices we own and use:
- Smartphone? Check
- iPad? Yep
- ultrabook? Uh Huh
- personal/portable cloud? Oh Yeah
When I travel, go through airport security I expect the TSA folks to earn their money! If we want to catch up on work or catch up on the last segments of Cybergeddon, our options are at hand and we agree with Felix that it “Doesn’t make any difference.”