Thursday, March 25, 2010

Future Moves

A lot of companies going over the top and a lot of very similar looking EPGs were my impression of this year's IPTV World Forum.

It's five years since my previous company, Narrowstep, demonstrated a mini STB with internet TV on it, and finally the idea of combining traditional TV with Internet TV is becoming a reality.

The same curse seems to be afflicting a number of other much hyped initiatives. There was widespread consensus that both the Boxee box and Canvas platform are a long way from seeing light of day, highlighting some of the major issues facing the industry.

The first major problem is that STB chips don't run Flash in hardware, and most Internet video is either in a Flash format or is served via a Flash player. Intel's chips work well, but at a higher unit cost. It's going to be interesting to see if Intel manage to drop their prices before the traditional STB chip manufacturers raise their game.

Secondly, standards are, well, not standard. The TV industry is notoriously bad at standards and the number of rival platforms being developed do not augur well for Canvas, despite its ever increasing membership (most companies see it as a hedging move to join in). Meanwhile the more international HBB is evolving and Sky is doing spoiling deals all over the place and Virgin are set to roll out their new Tivo-based boxes.

I spent most of the show in a meeting room down the road where Vidiactive was holding its own meetings with leading network operators and chip and box manufacturers. It seemed so appropriate - Vidiactive is fast beginning to look like a parallel universe to the 'me too tv' approach of most incumbents.