Sunday, November 14, 2010

Convergence in My Living Room

Not too unrelated to yesterday's post on multiple screens is convergence in the living room. Internet on TV-attached devices. And not just the web browser in your Wii. This has been coming for a while, and like a lot of when-will-it-get-here technologies arrived, oh, some time ago. I've had Netflix in the living room for a year, and of course then there's that Wii browser. And what about all the networked gaming that's been going on for years and years. This post is driven by two things that happened to me lately, playing with a Sony Google TV, and getting a new DVD player. The Google TV was... disappointing. And I saw it while shopping for a new DVD player because my previous, marginally-connected one died, and Best Buy decided to screw me on the warranty. So a few days later, a new cool one arrived in the mail. It was not just rather more connected (no browser, but lots of other neat stuff) but the services (apps, if you want) were all significantly better and easier to get to than the Google product. All this basically for free, instead of the premium (or all new box) for Google TV in your TV. So, here's a 10 minute walkthrough of the best and worst connected services and some interesting interactions patterns, or anti-patterns. Coupled with lots of chatter (with some of the phrasing I remember from information superhighway days) this has been on my mind. We're supposed to be seeing convergence in all sorts of devices, in all sorts of areas, and with some new products, and people like Netflix moving into into everything they can get into, the living room is the current frontier. So, like I said, it's here. It's not all good. And not just because of the bad bits of the connectedness above, but because of fragmentation in the worst way. The PVR/DVR does some stuff. The DVD player does other stuff. The game station does some other stuff. The TV will soon do stuff. Annoyingly, much of this is the same stuff, and you have to choose which version of Netflix you might want to use today. Not to mention that consumer electronics and home A/V systems are terrible things to set up anyway.
My programmable smartypants remote is the only thing that makes a lot of the functionality tolerable. But that also took far too much time, and almost no one else I show any of this to, from calibrating my 7.1 surround sound, to getting that remote programmed, is willing to put up with the fuss. There are lots of marginally good-enough solutions, and as the always quotable Russell Davies said the other day "It turns out that homes are mostly full of solved problems. " Most people will keep living with the easiest, quickest solution. And they might well just keep going to their computer or mobile. Unless this gets a lot better, it's not going to get any market traction. Except incidentally. Cameras in phones became default well before they were demanded. Don't get confused by just counting the number of Netflix-enabled devices in homes; look at how many people actually use these devices. Oh, and since I've been writing up lots of design patterns, I always look at new cool products to get good ideas, and avoid bad ones. I just often can't talk about other things I get to see.

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