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Tuesday March 16, 2010 1:20 pm

SXSW 2010: From Hulu to Yahoo Widgets: Will the Internet Transform the TV?

Yahoo Widgets SXSW

Rovi Chief Evangelist, Richard Bullwinkle had an afternoon session at SXSW 2010, dealing with convergence in the living room, “From Hulu To Yahoo Widgets: Will The Internet Transform The TV?”

He started the session with the statement “It is difficult to upgrade your television because it is affixed to a wall.”  With computers, you can go to a new website, such as moving your social network from myspace.com to facebook.com.  With a mobile phone you can delete the location centric Loopt app and load Foursquare or Whrrl.  But your
television cannot be updated and it is typically maintained by someone who put it on the wall.

With the American market being spread out over thousands of miles, broadband penetration and the speed of those connections becomes the next issue.  Music and streaming television is not a problem with existing bandwidth; be it via cable, to the house or Wi-Fi within.  As we get to HD quality, few have the capacity to our homes to achieve this rate.  I know of this pain point personally and have solved it by running three networks at the house, one for devices like the and Chumby at 2.4 GHz and the others for high definition video distribution over Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11N at 5GHz.

On getting computer style content to the television, the initial convergence devices were focused on getting pirated video from the Internet, onto a server in the house and then ultimately onto the television.  These were under the name of Media Center extenders and hard drive based media playback devices.

The next stage of products were connected devices like ,

where you can stream Amazon, Netflix and other third party content.  These devices have relatively closed platforms, some without hard drives for local storage, with difficult API support for unsupported or small developers.  None of the content is based upon social media - or you do not have connections to your Facebook or Twitter accounts.  What I believe is the final generation of these devices will employ more open standards like the Mozilla framework and use platforms like boxee (disclosure, I am a shareholder and have been an adviser to boxee) which allows anyone to build plug ins into the 10-foot media interface.  With more Linux inside of televisions to run their widget platforms this will be possible even on the low-end high definition sets.

All of this extra connectivity begs the question with your living room, do you wish to be alerted to notifications on the big screen to things that are happening on social networks?  For example, do you want your eBay auction status on your television when you are watching a program?  What about your Facebook updates?  Interrupting a family experience with unique messages to a specific user when a group or family activity is going on is not a good user experience.  Not withstanding the privacy issues.

Television today has hundreds of channels but thousands are coming through the web.  How do you find the content that interests you?  Two key points were made.

  1. Meta data is key.  Telling people who is in content, details about what is in it, and indexing to allow people to search for it.
  2. Create social networks around the entertainment.  Sites like Flixter and comments on blogging and fan sites are key to get people interested in the content


In the end, its about more entertainment, and ultimately finding the content that you enjoy.  You can find more about the speaker Richard through his twitter account @rbullwinkle.

Dave Mathews @ggdm is an inventor, broadcaster and consultant who has helped such companies as RadioShack, Sling Media and . You can find more of his content at www.davemathews.com.

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