What do we want? Information.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
First there was Blockbuster™. Then Hollywood Video™. Then arrived the throw-the-stand-in-line-to-rent-paradigm-out-the-window Netflix which introduced home delivery of movie rentals. And lastly, the emergence of DVD rental kiosks at your local grocer. And now, coach potatoes rejoice, the emergence of the stay-at-home-and-stream-the-video box. Not exactly new or earth shattering - but it will be. These devices look similar to the old analog cable boxes of yesteryear. The convenience afforded by these rather inexpensive media players is simply amazing. They work like this: connect your media player to your broadband router, wired or wireless, and your television. Subscribe or navigate to a participating service, such as YouTube, The Apple Store or Netflix. Select content for viewing. In sixty seconds or less you are watching full-frame video at standard or high definition (where available).
The Apple TV device debuted at MacWorld on January 9, 2007 beginning with approximately 300 titles. Today consumers have access to thousands of videos from the iTunes Store starting at $2.99. Apple recently added the capability to watch YouTube™ videos, Flickr photos and MobileMe content to the mix. Apple TV retails for $249 down from the $299 introductory price. The built-in hard drive can be used to store music, pictures and H.264 video. Rentals expire after 30 days. Once accessed, you can watch them as many times as you'd like in a 24 hour period.
The Netflix service is compatible with several media players and other devices such as the X-Box 360 and newer Tivo DVRs. Select titles from Netflix can be rented and watched through these devices. The least expensive of these devices is the $99 Roku Digital Video Player which provides basic Netflix access. Not all titles Netflix sends through the mail are available but it is clear that their library will only increase.
The Crystal Ball
The Digital Video Player is, in essence, a computer. The fact that it is connected to the Internet, in my opinion, is a sign of things to come. News of "smart appliances" and a "smart grid" have emerged through the media recently. The Digital Video Player is the first incarnation of the next phase in home connectivity where the device is the computer.
Consider that ten years ago the push for interactive television was merely a pipe dream. Lofty goals and few solutions. What we are witnessing now is the emergence of interactive television in it's infancy - done well. As more and more consumers adopt digital media players there capabilities will increase. Today it will be movie rentals - tomorrow you will shop, schedule doctors appointments and book vacations. No computer required.
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