video bits

May 28, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Behind the transition
Lies a sense of ambiguity
Why hide behind the truth
Of what you are?
Your character becomes distorted

Every once in a while I have to check myself to ensure that I am getting things right about IPTV. There is soooo much confusion in the marketplace from a variety of sources, some accidental, some intentional, some is generational and some is borne out of a lack of understanding.

What is IPTV? Easy, video (TV) over IP!

This is where, for the moment, I part company.

By the above definition, the service provided by AT&T’s U-Verse product is exactly the same as that provided by YouTube or Hulu. Somehow that just doesn’t seem quite right. Obviously not alone with this definition, ‘the industry’ coined a new term of “Over the Top”. This is video that is delivered over any generic IP connection, be it ADSL, Cable Modem, 3G, WiFi, WiMAX or other.

Therefore it would seem that a major differentiator is quality (and price!).

The lounge room of the modern home has just shelled out some serious dollars for a large TV, and wants to get a quality experience. They want quality productions, quality picture, quality sound and a quality jitter-free delivery of that experience in response to the incessants clicks of their remote. Notice here that quality of experience here is not just picture quality, but the overall experience…

“Over the top” cannot yet match that quality of experience. Partly because of the encoding techniques and partly because of the buffering/partial downloads required to smooth out the non-deterministic nature of the delivery mechanism, in this case the internet. Add to this complexity the user interface issues, and the ease of getting Web video into the lounge room, and… well you get the picture (or not – pun intended).

In order to overcome this mess, many new services are focused on VOD in order to define a niche by competing directly against DVDs and suchlike. They enable you to download content to a box (even your PC), and you play it locally – you pay for the bandwidth/storage tradeoff with time. But the value proposition is that time investment is still less than running to your local ‘Video Store’.

This brings up another point. Is video the same as TV? Likely in the future it will be. But today, TV is a streamed, real-time medium that brings appointment shows to facilitate a collective experience. As we increasingly personalize our content consumption real-time will become an increasingly moot point – except perhaps for competitive events like elections, sports and for time specific events like live concerts and news. It will be ‘my time’ TV (TM).

So IPTV is not just TV over IP. It is a managed service, that ensures comparable (or in many cases superior) quality TV experiences to that of the current home RF delivery mechanisms of Antenna, Cable and Satellite. But this is just the first step. With a common IT network infrastructure, your STB is now capable of allowing you to self-provision many more applications and services – just think of an applications store for the lounge room TV experience.

Can I do that on any other IP infrastructure? Yes, its called the web. And maybe that’s where the confusion lies, that fact that it can be done, rather than being done well.

But we all have come to expect that even this will change. So in the future IPTV will be video (TV) over IP, but just not today.

Tell me is isn’t so… I’m listening.

Entry filed under: Media. Tags: , , .

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