With laptops now being given away for free by broadband companies and their cost in the shop down to £100 in some cases, a whole new economic world opens out.
I’ve been told so often that internet TV won’t catch on until viewers can watch it on the box in their living room (a contention that has turned out to be totally bogus incidentally) - but this has already been easy to achieve for a long time. Before the more recent launch of Apple TV, Microsoft has spent over five years marketing the Media Centre (MCE) version of their operating system, which has all the gubbins to receive traditional TV along with internet TV.
Unfortunately, Microsoft used a very clunky and proprietary markup language to author the interface of their service (MCML), so integrating existing services was highly cumbersome. The result was that usage figures for the TV functions of MCE boxes were insubstantial.
Then, along comes Apple with a worse, highly proprietary system and steals their thunder. As the old saying goes, all’s fair in love, war and television…
But it doesn’t need to be that complex. The laptop I am writing this on has three graphic inputs – for SVHS, RGB and AGP, and my lovely Samsung LCD in the corner has inputs - for all three!
The problem has been that I, like many other people, have been reluctant to tie up a very expensive laptop for a function that a ‘free’ box from the cable or satellite company does rather better.
But the £100 computer changes that; it means that an existing computer can be customised (and PCs are very easy to customise) to provide an interface on all the broadcast and internet TV and video content out there.
This is startlingly bad news for the IPTV set top box industry, but probably good news for any wannabe broadcaster, especially those with broadband customers.
Expect an Orange TV or a TalkTalk TV box to come through the post for free any day now...