Friday, January 22, 2010

Public Media's Innovation Agenda: A View from CES - Part 1

How much content? A recent study, How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers estimated that in 2008 “Americans consumed information for about 1.3 trillion hours, an average of almost 12 hours per day. While measuring usage by hours of consumption is traditional, as a technologist, I am much more interested in data. And the HMI report accommodates; consumption totaled 3.6 zettabytes…” (a zettabyte is a million million gigabytes.) The vast majority of that data occupied just two categories; television (accounted for by HD broadcast) and gaming. If the folks at CES have any say over it that number will continue to rise…and in 3D!!

Consumer Media Ecosystem Trends: A View from CES 2010

At CES they understood these numbers and are turning out products that they believe will increase the value of information. The majority of the show was dedicated to visual consumption of information, transcending all other usage. If audio was cited, it was largely to enhance visual viewing or gaming. Storytelling is the name of the game. In 2010 the manufacturers and content distributors are there to capture your eyeballs with compelling (perhaps flashy is a better word) content on their platforms they are happy to make that viewing consistent across television (broadband), mobile, eReaders and computers; whatever platform you desire. The big themes at CES that captured my attention include:

Form Factor Evolution – as information and content becomes ubiquitous manufacturers are trying to fit the device into our hands, pockets, and into every nook and cranny of our house. (Amongst the HD this and 3D that, I was most amazed by the super-thin LG TVs, about the thickness of a quarter.) This can be no better seen in the eBook Reader space as they multiply from Kindle-like to be larger, almost slate-like factors, to small and unobtrusive. This evolution, however, was seen across the floor to TVs, mobile phones, laptops and PCs.

Portability of Content Across Devices – for me this was the biggest story of CES, that content and manufacturers were teaming up like never before to build albeit proprietary platforms for portability of content. (Hah! Say that three times fast!) This can be seen with Motorola in their development of DVRs, smart phones, media players, etc. However, our friends at Microsoft have taken it up a notch…the best deployment that I have seen yet. Utilizing the Windows 7, Silverlight and other backend platforms they have built a seamless integration of TV, mobile and PC environments (or at least purported to be seamless…we will see.) If what they assert is real you can socially watch content via the Xbox, stop it, pick it back up on your Windows ME phone or Zune player and keep going right along and then over to your PC and back to your TV. It was very, very slick.

New Interactions with Content – Microsoft has teamed up with HP to provide the first roll-out of, which was one of the coolest implementations of reading material I have seen yet. It may even make me read comic books. On big touch flat screen a comic book cover lays out in crisp definition. Flip of the finger opens up the comic book and allows for panel-by-panel reading, intelligent search (find every panel with Wolverine on it) and multi-part annotation by page, panel, character or book. Then amble over to the Dynamation booth and put on their ‘gaming glove’ and start flicking web pages or games…or better yet when Project Natal for Xbox launches forget the glove and get your whole body into the experience. Graphic layers over mobile cameras will be getting smarter at recognizing where you are and what you are looking at and geolocation, tagging and geo-file dropping is almost passé at CES.

Strategic Interactive Convergence – as mentioned above content producers and distributors are starting to team with manufacturers. While on one side that is resulting in some impressive utilization of processing power, bandwidth and content it is also locking consumers into proprietary and unique experiences. There is a definite lack of interest in building open standards in this space and on the floor there was marked demonstration of marked silos of content, through IPTV widgets, subscription services, and clear choices of hardware. Strangely enough, the only hope for breaking out of the silos was Microsoft’s ambitious cross-platform goals. Out of the frying pan and into the fire though on that score considering that Microsoft, though trying, is not what we would call an ‘open shop’.

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