Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I'm halfway through a Capgemini seminar on IPTV, and thought I might sketch my thoughts.

The positive first. There's a lot going on in the group with regard to innovative video services. Capgemini has been involved in some ground-breaking work in developing the architecture and business models which are now hitting the European market. Personally I'm a late entrant, I've been involved in the T-Home workstream for just over two weeks, but my employer is well positioned to capitalise on the market demand.

The grim reality second. Everything we're doing is currently "classic IPTV" - more succinctly, a defensive play by telcos to capture back some market share from cable companies who are bringing triple play products to market.

Somehow I find this defensive position depressing. What is the value of a me-too service? I was keen to get an insight into the workings of Hulu, Joost and Miro. Instead I learned that IPTV "requires" the following:
  1. Live "regular" TV.
  2. Streamed and encrypted content
  3. A closed network.
I don't believe these propositions for a minute. Let's take them in turn.
  1. Live TV is an artifact from a broadcasting era. There is no good reason why you and I should both choose to watch "Desperate Housewives at 20:00. Video should be on-demand, any other model is an unnecessary encumbrance. In a model where delivery servers need to scale, simultaneous delivery is in any case suicide.
  2. Streaming and encrypting is expensive. Why bother? Digital content will be copied and pirated regardless of any effort to the contrary, why handicap yourself trying? Instead, we should lower the bar to progressive download a la Apple TV.
  3. A closed network is required to ensure Quality Of Service. A noble goal, one might think. However, turn the tables, and it means that your friendly neighbourhood telco will not give QoS guarantees for a third-party video service. Suddenly your promised 6 Mbit/s bandwidth becomes a number you're guaranteed not to exceed, rather than a goal to achieve. This fails the "Don't be evil" test miserably.
What's the upshot? As I've said before, the digital media market will continue to fragment. Telcos will find their niche, together with the Internet pure players, cable companies and other aggregators/etailers such as Apple iTunes, Walmart, Amazon, etc. The successful players will be those who add sufficient value or advertising, and established telcos will survive by girth alone.

I for one won't be signing up for a repeat of today's television experience, but thankfully I'm not representative of any known target group ;-)

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