TV revolutions

Here we go. The Bill is merging PCs and TVs. Again (remember webTV?). And according to his Davos-speech, it will take just about five years to revolutionize the tube.

Of course, Mr. Bill is right. “I’m stunned how people aren’t seeing that with TV, in five years from now, people will laugh at what we’ve had,” he told business leaders and politicians at the World Economic Forum. Yes. What we‘ve had. Let’s not forget. Microsoft is the leading supplier of IPTV backend software for the leading telcos of the world. So it’s very much likely, that in five years, with Windows Vista being slowly replaced by its successor, Microsofts TV foundation will finally deliver on its promises.

Currently, IPTV isn’t any different from any other broadcasted multichannel tv. Same content, same linear delivery. That’s going to change. Slowly. Because for building huge proprietary interactive applications, you’ll need a huge audience. For building small proprietary interactive applications for micro audiences, you’ll need a huge incentive.

That’s where the blur starts. Huge IPTV deployments currently means a quarter million subcribers. That’s a lot if you have to start from scratch. But essentially equals the online population of Memphis, TN. And if you want to revolutionize a mass medium reaching billions of people all over the world, fueled by a global content industry, revolutionizing Memphis will be an important first step out of several gazillions.

That’s why The Bill is making a switch. To quote Reuters: The rise of high-speed Internet and the popularity of video sites like Google Inc.’s YouTube has already led to a worldwide decline in the number hours spent by young people in front of a TV set. Uhm. Interesting math. But Douglas A. McIntyre is making another point here: Using YouTube is actually a poor example of what is likely to happen. Making money from teenagers lip syncing music or farting in the tub is not likely to supplant content like the Superbowl. Unless, of course, Mr. Gates has odd tastes.

Broadband TV à la YouTube and IPTV à la Gates aren’t twins, separated after birth. It’s two completely different business models. Merging them will happen as soon as Microsoft publishes its software under a GNU license.
Let’s get back to the revolution. “Certain things like elections or the Olympics really point out how TV is terrible. You have to wait for the guy to talk about the thing you care about or you miss the event and want to go back and see it,” explains the software tycoon. “Internet presentation of these things is vastly superior.”

Yes, tv is (sometimes) terrible. An commented on demand features of live events would definitely be a very nice thing to have. But let’s put it like that. TV content is software, too. PC software and tv software a.k.a. broadcasting content are both increasing return businesses. Both are businesses because of the underlying intellectual property rights. But the major difference is: Windows XP has a life cycle of half a decade, at least. Events like the Olympics are good for month and a half. So a real Microsoft TV would be the only available channel, broadcasting a single event for a couple of years in a row, with monthly updates, thank you.

OK, unfair. Microsoft is in the enabling business. With Office being the premier User Generated Content-production suite. “Because TV is moving into being delivered over the Internet — and some of the big phone companies are building up the infrastructure for that — you’re going to have that experience all together,” sez Bill. Nope (No, he doesn’t have to care, as he’s delivering some building blocks for this infrastructure). But just because SAP data and YouTube-vids are delivered via IP, you will not be able to tune into

Being Disruptive

Here we go. At Hubert Burda’s DLD, Nicholas Negroponte is holding up a working model of the 100 Dollar Laptop. My little one is still (sometimes) toying around with her Barbie Laptop (which is a purple piece of plastic litter, disguised as a real computer). It’s disruptive, too. Because it blinks and squeaks all the time. Negroponte’s Kddie-Laptop looks like a hard plastic clam shelled soap dish with pointy ears, crossbred with a silly wind up toy. But  if you want to talk disruptive, this thing surely will become so. This is a mean machine. In about a decade, we’re going to see the first real effects all over the world.
Nicholas NegroponteThe 150 Dollar Laptop

The Trojan Boxes

A box is a box is a box. But those console boxes are really mostly trojan horses. With one exception. Let’s start with this one. Nintendo’s Wii is just about playing (and puts the web on your tv; a fascinating retro concept straight from the mid nineties). I’m not a gamer. But the Wii with its funny controller redefined the meaning of jump and run gaming. No hidden agenda here.
With Microsoft and Sony, it’s a bit different. Sony’s Playstation 3 is by definition a trojan horse. It’s a fully fledged Linux home workstation (be afraid, Microsoft, be a teensy-weensy bit afraid), doesn’t contain any root kits (it’s a Linux) and is Sony’s spearhead to make Blue Ray the DVD of the future. A single PS3 contains more computing horsepower than all Apollo missions combined, sucks as much energy as a the fully enlightened Empire State Building, and doubles as a virtual lawn mower (at least, it looks like it should). For Sony, it’s make or break. If the PS3 doesn’t deliver, Sony will commit corporate seppuku and you can scrap up its remains on eBay.

Microsoft’s XBox isn’t that big on hardware. It still could render Toy Story 1 in a single afternoon, alas: no real super computer here. Anyway, Microsoft’s idea of operating system fun has been building up a hodepodge of completely different pieces of software, which just share a crappy user interface. Just look at Windows mobile, which is a s bad as it gets (and look at the iPhone: it’s running OS-X, not some bonsai shaped look-a-like). Compared to the Winmob, the XBox is definitely top notch. And it’s a trojan, too. Yes, MS endorsed the HD DVD. But it’s just an add on. The real BIG THING is IPTV. After all, Microsoft is a major player in IPTV. And selling settop-boxes is usually as promising as selling ice cubes in Antarctica (after all, it’s phantastic promise is: you buy this box, and you’ll be able to watch tv. Duh. ) So here comes the XBox. And here it is in action.

Told you so (almost)

Popkom 2004. And Reuters asked the question: Is the mobile phone the next iPod Killer? Some analysts believe the mobile phone with hard disc capacity could revolutionize the MP3 player market just as the camera phone did for the photography world. “There’s no reason to think we won’t have a five-gigabyte hard drive on the market next year,” said Hubert Gertis, a technology analyst for Berlin-based consultancy

Back then, (Giga)Om Malik begged to differ. I just don’t buy “phone as an IPod Killer” argument. OK. Here are the specs and here’s Apple’s iPod killer in action.


See, told you so. Almost. (And could somebody please delete the last paragraph of this piece?)

Anyway. The iPod killer to be (formerly known as iPhone) is actually a video iPod you can shake and talk to. The first thing I thought: how can they build it? Seems like, designing and manufacturing mobile phones isn’t rocket science anymore. Seems like the hardware part in electronics is already a commodity. So they won’t build it but outsource it (just remembering my crappy Treo: Great UI, sloppy manufacturing. So commodity might be a but harsh).
But why’s everybody crazy about it? It’s not just the touchy-feely haptics and the supermodel looks. How about a sexy user interface. Look at the video, again. Compared to this, any Windows smartphone supersoftware looks like a second runner in yesteryears pug ugly contest (Treos refereed, the Nokia family made up the audience. And of course, Sony Ericsson gets the honorary village idiot award for implementing an email client which makes it utterly impossible to delete any message you receive).

Axel Ehssan Springer

OK, that’s a pretty German thing. Bernt von zur Mühlen asks in the media newsletter Medienbote: Where are the Web 2.0 Portal founders? Meaning: old media has had a tradition of reinventing itself from within. And gives some examples. Like Axel Springer (founder of the German multi billion Euro media empire Axel Springer Verlag). Or Helmut Markwort, reinventing for Burda the weekly news mag sector in Germany. Or Helmut Thoma, building up RTL from a softsex pirate station to Germanies leading tv network. His question: has old media now lost its knack? Instead of buildig up their future from scratch again, they buy their future.

Well, we talked about this one before. Real innovation (as in paradigm shifts) has never been the game for the incumbents. At least not in media. So he’s getting something wrong here. The founders are busily starting up their businesses. And the incumbents are busily picking the raisins. And everything’s just fine.