The internet is coming to your TV and it’s going to get ugly… for a while.
I vividly remember the ‘experts’ confidently defining two distinct media participation modes – ‘lean forward’ (i.e. actively engage in a specific task… on a computer) and lean back’ where you consume passive entertainment (generally on your television). The experts were correct for a couple of years. Then we humans did what we often tend to do – we adapted. Check out your teenager today on a computer watching a video, texting their friends and updating their facebook status, all at the same time. Are they leaning forward or back, and does that distinction even matter? None of the experts even considered the third critical media consumption mode, ‘walk forward’ (mobile). “OK” the experts concede, the ‘lean forward/back’ paradigm really just applied to the television set. You still only lean back in your family room, right? Wrong…
Google has quietly been applying it’s considerable brain power to GoogleTV. Like Apple (and Apple TV) Google is betting that the most important and lucrative screen in the world (your TV) is going to open up into a platform for much more engaging ‘lean forward’ type of activities, and they are looking to put themselves in the middle of your family room.
Everyone is fighting for control. The networks are fighting for their lives to control when you can watch your favorite shows. Apple wants to own the big store that you get all your shows from. The cable companies want to limit what you can and can’t see. Google wants everyone to be happy, free and open as long as every commercial is served through their advertising delivery network. The TV manufacturers all want a piece of the action. The set-top box companies are all scrambling trying to figure out why nothing they have created to date has ever caught on. Microsoft is hoping they can spend their way into your hearts by making x-box the single device that solves all of your integration issues. Netflix wants to provide you access to every bit of media ever created for one low fee. Hulu isn’t really sure what they are doing but the networks that own Hulu are at least trying to stay ahead of the wave and not make the same mistake that the good folks from the music industry made. Exciting times!
What does it all mean? Very, very soon, your TV, if it is not already connected, is going to be connected to the internet. New micro targeted channels, games, tools, applications, the long tail of media, new services, cloud-hosted everything and a bunch of stuff we can’t even imagine are all going to be accessible on your TV. It’s the wild west for a number of years until Google or Apple (my guess) or someone else becomes the dominate interface to all content, gaming, applications, and other stuff that you will be leaning forward, backward and sideways to do on your family room ‘TV’.
An example: Sony has partnered with Google and are introducing Google TV on some of their new displays:
…and a timely example of ugly: