Cross Loader

Ain’t that smart: Hey!Spread gives you video uploads to multiple destinations. Currently, it’s YouTube, Google Video, DailyMotion, Blip, Metacafe, Photobucket, Yahoo Video, MySpace, and Putfile. Local heroes like Sevenload aree left out (for now). As the nice folks of Particles explain: Spreading videos is something extremely boring and time consuming. Oh so true. And sometimes, it’s even true for watching videos.

Vudu voodoo

Does Vudu really have the Holy Grail of digital TV entertainment? It looks like. Even if the idea of conquering the entertainment world by selling settop boxes seems a bit ridiculous.

The facts: afetr two years in stelath mode, the news are starting to trickle out. Gizmodo has a picture. The NY Times has got the facts.
In a nutshell, it goes like this: Vudu is the video stoe of the 21st century. No walk-ins. No “we mail you your DVD and you send it back”. Everythings happening in front of your tv, with instant gratification. Press the button, watch the show.

And instead of ruining itself with a monstrous centralized server installation, Vudu is going to be assisted by all its users. The cute little settop boxes are part of a peer to peer network. But the real magic of Vudu has been happening behind the scenes. All major studios are workig with Vudu. Except Sony Pictures, as they probably have their own, PlayStatoin-related plans to take care of.

The somewhat crazy part of Vudu is of course the settop boxes business. Because in the real world., that’s no business at all. As you will have to convince consumers that they have to shell out §300 for the privilege of watching movies in DVD quality on their tv sets. Which means: the brazen early adopter has to stack another box on top of his cable box, his DVD player, his tivo …

The good news is: they might just get rid of the hardware an end up as a software stack. And the even better news is: compared to the personal video recorder business, where the early overs like tivo and replay became almost something like an endangered species, Vudu has a big advantage: their contracts with the studios. But Sony and Microsoft (yup, the Xbox) have another thing going for them: theri some million boxes are already deployed. But hey: why shouldn’t there be a Vudu outlet in the Xbox or PlayStation mall next to your screen? It’s just a piece of software.

Hype.tv

It’s a funny idea: ditch cable and/or satellite, use AppleTV instead. Steve Rubel goes wild again: At home I have a Microsoft Xbox 360 (they’re one of our clients) and an Apple TV connected to my Sony HDTV. The content I download off the Internet for the two set top boxes has definitely eaten into my time with cable. The latter cannot be beat for live news and sports – yet.

But is this scenario really ready for prime time? And, if not yet: when? Serving 110 Million US tv households their daily dose of tv content via the Internet isn’t even a pipe dream – it’s actually a nightmare for the guys running the pipes. Just a small handul of people are currently heavy users of Bittorrent. But the p2p brethern is already clogging up 60 percent of the net (sez Gartner). Currently, you cannot scale net video to mass markets (not to mention HD deliveries). And don’t anybody YouTube me now. According to Compete, this February the top 20 videohosters served round about 260 million web videos. Which is about 2.5 videos per householf per month. Meaning an average viewing time of roughly five minutes. Per month. TV is currently eating of 4.5 hours per person and day. So puh-lease: yes, it’s exciting. And yes: it’s great to be ahead of the curve. But the debroadcastization of the tv world won’t happen any time soon.

Micro Persuasion: Between All-You-Can-Eat and A-La-Carte TV

The Bandwith Blob

Most telcos agree: the future of TV isn’t about broadcasting anymore. It’s on demand, IPTV, server based, what ever. The idea of the network as a programming entity will be replaced by networks as a technical layer, where the videos are hosted and delivered, and a social layers, which assists you in choosing programming you want to get.

Sounds godd – but has some ramifications. That’s why Google and cable firms warn of risks from Web TV As Vincent Dureau, Google’s head of TV technology, explained at the Cable Europe Congress 2007: The Web infrastructure, and even Google’s (infrastructure) doesn’t scale. It’s not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect.

Statements like this have always to be taken with a grain of salt. But to deliver high quality TV content you need either have to wait for multicasting to finally take off (whcih means just broadacsting). Or you need quite some barns full of servers and access to cheap bandwith (The Google Way of life). One nice looking solution might be peer 2 peer networking. Joost is doing a great job here, trying to push p2p from the digital fringe into the consumer mainstream. But mind that: currently, the biggest chunk of all Internet traffic is alreday related to p2p-file transfer.
How can you scale this as an ISP? Only if you own your network from core to edge, from backbone to the last mile. And you will have to host as many peers as possible, so that you can keep as much traffic in your own network. Even than, it’s a rat’s race. As one Cable Operator explained at the Cable Conference: People (Internet service providers) don’t like to talk about (the fact) that just to stand still, they have to invest.

Tom Evslin has a nice post on this. If we all shift to watching TV on the Internet, the total bandwidth (Internet and other) required INTO our homes will decrease and the load on the Internet backbone and the regional distribution portions of the Internet will be – well – interesting. Of course, his calculation is a bit misleading. Most of your home-bandwith of today, used for broadcasting, is one way traffic on a shared medium.

As there’s no such thing as a free lunch: where’s all the bandwith coming from? And who’s going to pay for it? That’s why operators want to build up their walled gardens. And charge everybody else for putting stuff on their networks. Question is: do we really want to upgrade the delivery network monopolies of today into virtual content distribution monopolies, with some wholly owned social networking attached?

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 TheWallStreetJournal.tv.

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 gertis.media.

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.

iPhone

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).