Over the past few years, the internet has stealthily been creeping into television’s backyard. From the stuttering, blurry days of Realvideo up to our current blossoming ecosystem of Youtube, Vimeo, and thousands of video podcasts, video has taken centre stage online.
But up until now the worlds on online video have been separated by a mental DMZ, a feeling that nobody wants “lean forward” experiences on the couch. Despite attempts to bring TV to the living room, even Apple couldn’t force consumers to make the mental leap supposedly required to bring the internet to the living room.
But as usual in the digital world, change takes place in tiny ways and from a million different directions. Slowly but surely, people are migrating their lives not only online but onto their televisions, amongst a myriad of other devices. Xbox 360 users can now update their Facebook and Twitter accounts directly from their console. UK users can watch SKY on their 360, and Microsoft is apparently negotiating with Disney and ESPN to distribute their content through the box. Boxee has out-Appled Apple with their new Boxee Box, a miniscule media box with an amazing interface that took CES by storm. And Visio, favorite TV manufacter of Wal-Mart shoppers, is putting out a line of televisions that access web video content directly.
So what does all this mean? Well, primarily it means the truism of no-one wanting to use the internet from their couch was as flawed as the supposition that nobody would ever watch TV on their PC. Content is spilling out in a million different directions, and users expect to get the internet wherever we are. This trend may have started with smartphones, but it’s spread to every aspect of our lives.
And even though Apple didn’t hit their customary home run with the Apple TV, their rumoured new tablet might be the next iteration of the internet everywhere. Imagine a tablet that not only lets you watch movies and TV, read newspapers and use social networks, but also ties together all the media in your life, including what you see on your television. With a flick of your wrist the show you’ve been watching migrates to your TV without a blip, and your tablet then transforms into your social media hub, allowing you to comment on the show or research incidental characters. It could even keep track of your phone, so if you leave the house without your tablet, it automatically syncs with the phone so you have the same media on the go.
But more importantly, the tablet, the Xbox and the phone all work AROUND the current infrastructure. In cable industry terms it’s called “over the top”, and it scares them to their very foundations. A world where the cable company is reduced to a dumb pipe, serving up content from anyone everywhere, is in some ways the world we already have. And with the internet on your television, their final battleground is slowly but surely being worn down under the onslaught of a cornucopia of content. In a few years, the phrase “nobody wants to use the internet on their..” will seem as out of date as wishing for the return of the PDA.