Friday, February 6, 2009

Access, Fire hoses, to Garden hoses to Straws

For sometime, I have been looking at the internet to the living room market opportunity (NY Video 2.0 Meet-up, run by Yaron Samid, is a recommended place to see some interesting folk) and, while visiting with companies, have been focused on how this phenomena can be harnessed with a 'permacheap' focus. Many entrepreneurial vendors are stirring the better component of the better/faster/cheaper cauldron. I grok better (but think it will be commoditized quicker than you can say good exit), faster (tends to be in the capital intensive hardware dominated section of the infrastructure arena), and cheaper (when combined with the one of the two aforementioned traits) is good for any season.

MSFT and Netflix just issued a joint announcement stating that 1 million Xbox LIVE Gold members activated the joint service and watched 1.5 billion minutes of video in the past 3 months. The service enables people to watch content, streamed to their Xbox via Netflix, on their connected TV's. Today, 30,000 movies and shows are available via Netflix, plus over 17,000 HD content is available from Xbox Live. Surely, the amount of available content from these vendors, plus,, or type vendors is going to dwarf the exposure available from the moderated Netflix/MSFT sources.

It seems to me that the first issue of bringing the internet to the large screen home TV is access; simple to set up and attractively priced. Receiving streamed/cached content through a device that I already own, hard wired to the TV, clearly reduces the adoption cycle. With all the PC's and devices in homes today, I am sure enterprising folk are working to overcome this first hurdle. From a large vendor perspective, LG seems to be taking an early first step in this direction with their announcement last month.

This brings me to the fire hose. When these screens are connected to the internet, users will be instantly overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of sites offering millions of clips/shows/movies to watch. Hopefully, device will have sufficient intelligence to understand the various codecs used. If so, the next big step is to help organize this morass through an easy navigable User Interface (big button AOL circa 1999) that reduces navigation time.

While I will undoubtedly appreciate the winnowing of the content fire hose to a mere garden stream, it's still not good enough; Amazon has trained me to expect better. I value 'the customers like me also bought' facility, and appreciate the display of in context alerts from my 'favorites'. Therefore, on my TV, I would like a recommendation list populated by my friends/associates on Facebook/LinkedIn. Thereby giving instant access to a trickle, or a strawfull, of moderated content that has real 'better' value.

In fact, if I have a number of WiFi ready spare devices at home, a centralized PC (think Media Server), capable of streaming moderated content, enables me to reduce the number of monthly billed cable connections. Thereby, combining 'better' and 'cheaper' experiences. With a bit of Mr. Harry luck, this could be really rewarding.

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