that CES has lost its clout, it is still a good source for identifying trends that will drive the innovation of major technology companies in the new year. Last year tablets and dual-core processors were all the rage. This year, developers have something bigger on their minds.Anybody with a passing interest in the headlines pouring out of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas cannot help but identify one major theme: 2012 is the year that the TV will converge with mobile platforms. For all of the talk
Myriad launched the Android + TV news that has become the predominant theme of the first day of CES in the middle of December. It appears that everybody else was waiting until today to make announcements. CES went into full swing this morning and anybody remotely associated with TVs and mobile platforms has made some type of announcement.
Perhaps the most surprising announcement is that Ubuntu is coming out with a touch and gesture based TV operating system that can be controlled with a smartphone. MobiTV, a popular smartphone application, has joined forces with Deutsche Telecom for its "TV Everywhere" initiative. As if TV were not already everywhere. The MobiTV partnership will bring television to smartphones, tablets, PCs, set-top-boxes and ... whatever. If it has a screen, TV is coming to it in one way or another. TiVo has a new Android app that it announced this morning.
Conspicuously missing from all this great TV-based innovation? The Apple TV. Everyone is talking about it though, so I guess Apple wins CES. Again.
The fact of the matter is that the confluence of television and mobile platforms is going to be a major story this year. It almost comes to the point where we might need to start questioning the very definition of a "mobile" platform. Televisions are almost the opposite of mobile. They are quite stationary, actually. The only thing mobile about a TV is the remote and ... wait, where did I put that thing again?
The goal is two-fold. TV developers would like to bring the closest resemblance of cable and live television to mobile devices. On the other hand, mobile developers would like to bring the best representation of the Web and mobile apps to stationary TV sets. This is not a case where the two sides will meet somewhere in the middle and split the difference. Each scenario is likely to evolve in parallel over the next year.
Who wins when television is built on top of mobile operating systems like Android or iOS? App developers, multimedia and premium content providers, hardware manufacturers, CPU and GPU processors and advertisers come to mind. App developers will have the ability to expand their offerings to larger screens tied to mobile platforms. Advertisers looking to leverage apps as an expanding base for of reaching consumers will be on board. These apps will be driven by the multimedia and premium content providers. When devices have more functionality, the entire hardware supply chain benefits from consumer interest.
Who loses when TV, the Web and mobile platforms converge? Mostly, the "pipes." The pipes are the bandwidth providers that are responsible for carrying content and applications from sources to devices. The more options that are available to get mobile content on your TV outside of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Comcast, Cox and bandwidth providers, the harder it is for the pipes to monetize that content. This is precisely what the pipes do not want, to become "dumb" pipes. Yet, the ability for Android to run apps and content on TVs without going through the pipes fundamentally threatens the value-added content services that each company is trying to rollout.
That is why we see the carriers trying to work from the other end. For instance, AT&T wants you to watch TV on your mobile device with its U-Verse application. Verizon touts all the capabilities of FiOS on your TV or mobile device. Samsung is making it easier for paid-TV subscribers to stream certain content to mobile devices with a new offering called "Samsung N Service."
The convergence of TV and mobile will play out well into the future. We heard ripples come out last year at CES but the onramp is now becoming crowded. What it comes down to is the notion that the mobile platforms, Android specifically, have a far more disruptive reach than many pundits originally predicted. Not only are smartphones changing how users consume information, mobile operating systems are on a path to fundamentally change how content is delivered.