Julian Clover sees next big thing at IBC in Amsterdam. Tablet devices that preview your content and control the TV.
Despite the best efforts of many a stand, IBC 2010 probably wasn’t the year of 3DTV, if anything the industry took on a sense of realism about the stereoscopic format. IBC, its roots in the production sector, spent most of its conference time on the creation of the content rather than the distribution of 3D.
There were some lollipops to be found in the exhibition halls of the RAI complex in Amsterdam. Envivio for example was showing full 1080p 3D MVC streams with 6 Mbps/3 Mbps separation.
But the product that emerged was the tablet. As with all new products no one is quite sure of the business model. Ericsson presented its multiscreen tablet as a standalone device. The touchscreen interface freeing up the clutter of the TV display, now filled with all the bells and whistles that have been shown at previous events, by presenting the on-screen TV guide, access to social networking, and the family photo album. Previews can be seen of TV shows, independent of the main screen.
Ericsson, it was stressed, is not getting into the consumer hardware business. Its Android based technology is available to license.
Ruwido took the concept further, the curiously named TV Radio (it isn’t a radio) allowing portability from room to room, just like a radio, but also giving users the ability to independently control what was on the main TV display. It was as with all Ruwido devices superbly stylish.
The alternate method as demonstrated, amongst others, by OpenTV, ADB and Netgem was to use an existing tablet, such as the iPad, in order to control the TV. This is all very well, but what if the owner of said tablet then goes away to IBC for a week? Actually, it felt like a month.
The arrival of the tablet, or as Motorola offered ‘companion devices’, came alongside the whole multiscreen principal. ADB had developed a ‘virtual headend’ for the home that delivered content from the set-top box into IP-enabled TV displays around the home. Operator concerned that they may about to lose revenues from multiroom subscriptions need not worry. ADB have thought of that one too.
It was ADB that hired the giant robot ‘Steve’ to trundle his way around the halls, as a promotion for the new iCan dressed in assorted pieces of technology from years gone by, a sort of ghost of IBC past.
Echostar has been doing the whole multiroom thing for several years. The Slingplayer now has its own iPad App, but the Slingbox now also has some slimline adaptors that can work with existing set-top boxes to extend in and out of home viewing.
So that’s it then. Tablets are the future, well not quite. In a conversation with Neil Gaydon, the Pace CEO revealed that the number one set-top box manufacturer has yet to receive a single request for an integration.