The race is on for the best way to connect the regular TV set to the web in a way any consumer can understand. The issue is really about who will control the screen when you switch on your set to watch television.
Traditionally, this has been the domain of the platform you are subscribing to, but with an Ethernet connection on the back of your TV set this is about to change dramatically.
Earlier this year, Sony started to sell its connected Brava TV sets in the US and Japan, and Philips plans a similar product for roll-out in Europe at this year’s IFA. Both have web connectivity, but so far they appear to give access only to a walled garden environment. Not good enough, we’d say. The one lesson the web taught is: there is only room for open worlds.
So the search is still on for the best solution. Two items from the news this week. In the US, a start up called Building B has unveiled a hybrid box called Sezmi (pronounce as “says me”) which promises to combine regular digital broadcast TV with streaming internet TV as well as a 1 terabyte hard disk and completely new user interface which offers a personalised EPG.
It’s too early to tell, but the idea to marry different distribution means one single user interface is already working in Europe, where operators such as Canal in France and Orange in Spain have brought together DTT and DTH or DTT and IPTV. But in these instances, the operator still calls the tune. With Sezmi there is the potential to surpass the platform altogether.
The second announcement was Apple jumping on the day& date bandwagon with the arrival of most major Hollywood studios. With the iTunes store, an Apple TV device connected to the TV set, who’ll need VOD from its operator anymore? Sure, this is as much a walled garden, but at least the iTunes interface has proved to be one of the most user friendly around.
With HD, a possibility on Apple TV, there will also be no more need for physical carriers such as a Blu-ray disk. But the company still has a long way to go to get the ‘right’ connected device. Still missing is a cable, satellite or cable tuner and an integrated EPG that combines online content with that of the platform.
So, we are on the way, but it will be a long and certainly winding road in the quest for the ultimate connected TV.