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Monday, May 23, 2005

The Future Of Television

(Via Newsweek) Steven Levy writes, The television has transformed a lot - From monochrome to color to pay TV to more channels, remote controls & VCRs. The future holds more promise -our 2005 experience is only half vast. The ethos of New TV can be captured in a single sweeping mantra: anything you want to see, any time, on any device. Excerpts with edits and comments:

The future TV is already here - characterized by choice, personalization and empowerment. In the living room, the standard is a big-screen monitor that delivers high-definition quality. Another transition well underway is time-shifting, the ability to rearrange the schedule to watch programs at your convenience, not the networks. Though videocassette recorders have enabled this for decades, those devices were always too hard to use and too dumb to really shape our habits. A digital video recorder (DVR) can easily grab your favorite shows even if you don't know they're on and allows you to freeze-frame fast action and jump commercials. Video-on-demand provides another way to bypass what programmers offer at a given moment. VOD libraries will inevitably expand to the equivalent of the mammoth music boxes of iTunes and Rhapsody.
With space shifting - from TiVo, it's only logical to take it with you on your laptop, hand-held viewer or PSP game player. A company called Sling Media sells a device that allows you to watch the program playing in your living room on your computer, anywhere in the world. Other schemes are designed to beam programming directly to gadgets not normally regarded as TV devices. All these elements come together in what may be the most significant development of all - the movement of the television platform to the Internet. IPTV hopes to merge the lay-back culture of the living room with the bustling activity of the lean-forward Net. "This is the future," gushes Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, who has a $400 million deal with telecom giant SBC to implement it.
The Net, can host billions of Web pages without a sweat—has room for everything. You can stack as many shows on the screen as your eyes can handle. Since the Internet is open to any digital content, your television will merge with other activities allowing users to multitask among TV facilities. TV programs can reach the mass audience without going through a gatekeeper, be it a telecom, cable provider or satellite service. Video would be served directly, like everything else on the Web. "Most flat-panel TV sets will have Internet connections in their future," says Steve Shannon, founder of Akimbo. "Already there is more data downloaded for video over the Internet than there is for music," says Mike Ramsay, cofounder of TiVo. "What happens when a 14-year-old creates a BitTorrent browser that's easy to use and plugs right into your TV? You go from 500 channels to 50 million channels." Amazing transformation ahead.

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