[AI] Tomorrow's television today?

rajesh asudani rajeshasudani at rbi.org.in
Thu May 24 13:27:47 CDT 2007

Tomorrow's television today?

TV, as we know it, is being challenged by multiple technologies

STRIKE THREE!: After Kazaa and Skype, Niklas Zennstrom (left) and Janus Friis are targeting Internet TV with Joost.

NIKLAS ZENNSTROM is a Swede. Janus Friis is Danish. The two inventor-entrepreneurs first came together in 2000 to create the compelling Internet peer-to-peer
file sharing technology known as Kazaa.

It was controversial. The music companies came down like a ton of bricks on the company that offered Kazaa, accusing it of encouraging piracy.

Cool tool

By then Zennstrom and Friis had sold Kazaa to an Australian outfit called Sharman - but over 4 million 'satisfied' users had downloaded the cool music exchange

In 2003, the Scandinavian duo came up with their second inspired idea: an easy way of making cheap telephone calls from PC to PC via the Internet, which
they called Skype. The free software was downloaded by over 170 million users, many of whom went on to use a paid version which allowed one to call any
telephone including land lines or mobiles. In 2005, the auction site e-Bay bought Skype from its creators for $ 2.6 billion.

Compelling idea

What do you do with that sort of money? If you are Niklas and Janus, you plough most of it into your next invention.

They have just done it. It is called Joost (pronounced `juiced') and it may transform forever, the way we receive and watch television.

The idea is so compelling that within days of announcing their offering, they received a further infusion of $ 45 million from 5 investors last week, including
major US-based TV andmovie players like CBS and Viacom.

This is how it works: If you go to the Joost web page (
www.joost.com )
you will see an invitation to download the Joost beta (Friends edition) by simply giving your name and email address.

Attractive menu

The software reaches your mailbox within seconds. It works on all PCs running Windows XP, with a processor 500 MHz or faster, 512 MB of RAM memory, 48 MB
of video memory and the version 9.0 or later of DirectX.

Once installed, Joost opens an attractive menu, which offers over 100 TV channels to view. These include select programming from MTV, CNN, Sony Pictures,
library of feature films, a number of children's channels... the list keeps growing as more and more mainstream terrestrial and satellite TV content providers
join the queue of those who want to be seen on Joost.

Already there are a number of interactive features - you can rate a programme or chat with friends about it while watching - which go beyond what most of
us can do with our TV sets.

What is the commercial model? All these TV content players who are offering their programmes to Joost will share the on-site advertising: the ads will not
intrude too much at less than 3 minutes to every programme hour. What makes all this viable?

It is the increasing availability of broadband speeds for the Internet. Thanks to BSNL's bold initiative, and the domino effect it is having on the private
providers, many Indian viewers already enjoy the Net access speeds which will allow them to sign up for the free Joost service and enjoy reasonably smooth
streaming TV quality - right now. Joost may be compelling but it is not the only bright idea knocking around in the television space today. All the new
technology directions, have one thing in common: They exploit the Internet - what is known as IP TV or Internet Protocol TV.

Only weeks ago, Apple, makers of the iconic iPod music player, unveiled Apple TV, a small box which in essence, was a 40 GB hard disk with a wireless connection
and a stripped down version of the Mac OS X operating system.

Streaming content

Hooked to your TV on one hand and an Internet connection on the other, it allowed you to stream content from an ITunes library on the Net to the TV or play
movies or music you may have saved on the hard disk.

A similar approach has been used by WalMart and Amazon in the U.S., which allow paid users to download movie content to be played on their PCs or TV.

Two other approaches

There are two other current approaches to harnessing the ubiquity of Internet to extend the reach of TV. SlingBox, a small tuner-Net device, when attached
to a TV set, allows one to `shift' the place where you can watch its content (including Cable TV channels), to up to four other devices - PC or mobile
- that could well be on another continent... thanks to the Internet Protocol.

Another device launched late last year is Pinnacle PC TV To Go... which helps place-and-time-shift the content on one's TV, by wirelessly linking its box.
Interestingly the $ 250 Pinnacle device that was launched in the U.S. this year (it has just come to India) is based on technology created by Indian brains
at Monsoon Multimedia and known here under the name `Hava.'

SlingBox too was crafted by Indian engineers at the Bangalore end of SlingMedia, the parent company.

Fundamental, epochal

Whether you want to record and time-shift your favourite terrestrial and cableTV programmes using tools like Pinnacle and SlingBox or whether you want to
be among the first to move your TV experience entirely to the Internet ... one thing is clear: the change is likely to be fundamental and epochal.


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