Adobe and TV – ready for prime time?

On Monday, Adobe announced Flash Lite 3 platform to be a part of new TV sets/cable boxes – coming mid 09. It can be big breakthrough – even revolution – for the consumers. Or, without enough independent players, it can just be a neat way for cable providers to minimize the cost of targeted advertisement/services at the cost of upgrade of set-top boxes – most of them are being replaced this year anyway.

Giving programmable environment to the TV will be as freeing and devastating as Internet publishing for the traditional paper one. Traditional TV is best described by George in early Seinfield : “People will watch the show about nothing because it is on TV”. New environment can completely change not only HOW we receive the entertainment but WHAT and WHEN and HOW MUCH we will watch. Here is how it it works for me.
(Disclaimer: I have not been Cable TV subscriber for the last 8 years – after all I have kid at home. I watch movies that I choose, listen to music libraries collected for over 20 years, and share photos with my friends going back to black and white film. My base entertainment system is built around Macs network with every possible audio and video component not to mention musical instruments).

So last weekend I went to my brother birthday and gave him his first Mac Mini as a present. However, I did not plug it into his office monitor. Instead, it went straight into FIOS connection and HDTV unit. It had bluetooth Logitech DiNovo Edge keyboard and WII remote for mouse (kids preferred to use iPod). Most importantly, it had archive of family resources and was pre configured to securely access my “shared” libraries and gave me access to his “shared” ones. Plus instant video communications, screen sharing and VM remoting. For advanced uses, grid computing and documents backup.

The result was very enthusiastic from mostly skeptic (burned by Vista/Media Center fiasco) audience. Seeing that small box actually working caused quite a stir. I am pretty much set with birthday wish list for the next year. The simple fact that I can share my media and have “family” network and broadcasting, play human games like chess/cards/backgammon while seeing/talking to the opponent has great value to me – with friends and family all over the globe.

There is one small problem – the price for average family. The modern unit with backup drive and all extras costs ~$900. Flash on set-top allows for $0 cost (Ok, $200-300 for decent wireless keyboard and mouse and terabyte storage) while delivering most of the functionality of the above unit. Giving top boxes with HDTV ability to replace computers and TV programming can be a tipping point for the new media and relationship software.

Recently, just about 50% of Americans said that TV is “necessity” – more then 15% drop from 10 years ago. Most of the drop is accounted by the fact that younger generation is getting their entertainment via different (computer based) sources. As growth in facebook and myspace population is currently fueled by people around retirement age, HDTV based living room offers much more comfortable environment for mainstream adoption

I do not really care for twitter from anyone – especially paid editors to bombard me with clever sales pitches of 140 characters or less. If they have some thoughts to share, lets keep it real – 300 words at least, I would rather read or better yet listen to podcast/youtube from the people I trust. Trust is the key here. Once there is enough alternative information, the whole media structure is going to change. Advertisement as we know it will not work if people have alternative and more trusted source of information. In the end who do you trust – Amazon reviews or magazine editors dependent on the advertisement of the products they review?

Internet has not fulfilled so many predictions of the past millennium – like destroying the malls and making home shopping personalized and fun experience – but it will happen soon enough with the current economy. With so many people becoming disposed by Wall Street and Madison Ave the Silicon Alley gets all necessary talent and technology. It is going to be fun year, with more startups getting into RIA and streaming technologies – and I am looking forward with playing with new ideas and approaches to make programming more humane experience.

Anatole Tartakovsky