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Don't want my "iTV"

A reader writes: Maybe 20 years from now kids will want to interact with TVs, but not today.


Don't want my "iTV"

In response to the May 13 Perspectives column by Phillip Swann, "Interactive TV: Clearing the static":

Is Phillip Swann serious? Having worked with interactive TV creators and hardware and software vendors, I can honestly say that the number of deployed boxes is both grossly overstated and seemingly irrelevant. At the same time, the ongoing muddled definition of "iTV" helps contribute to more and more (wasted) dollars spent on this "technology."

One caveat: TiVo/PVRs (personal video recorders) and VOD (video-on-demand) are great ideas. They are not iTV. The iTV industry started including these because these devices fill an identifiable audience need.

Caveat 2: My comments are only about the U.S. market.

Just a few points:

1. The Web over TV (what most interactive TV really is) is a technology in search of a problem. Consumers are simply not asking for this. WebTV and others are horrific, dumbed-down Internet terminals. No one uses them--just look at your Web site's log files. I wish I had enough space to explain just how poorly built all of these boxes are.

2. There are no real standards. ATVEF? Give me a break. It's as bad as WAP. Every box interprets the code differently, forcing us to create versions of "applications" and content for each platform.

3. Americans do not want to interact with their televisions. This significant cultural problem is getting zero attention from the developers. I asked the now-defunct RespondTV and SpiderDance this question. Their response: That's my problem as a TV person. Right. Maybe 20 years from now kids will want to interact with TVs, but not today. We "sit back" from the TV; we do not "lean into" it.

4. Convergence? Again, no consumer is asking for this. What problems are the Web-over-TV people trying to solve? Is my home computer not slow enough? WebTV and the others make it slower! Maybe the Web's problem is that my home computer has too much RAM? Great, these STBs have even less. And they have slower processors too.

5. Everyone is backing off interactive TV: PBS, Microsoft, AOL, Sun, SpiderDance, Razorfish. Point me to someone in the United States who is investing in iTV (not VOD, not PVRs, but TV-based Web access). You should watch the eyeballs roll when you demo iTV.

I'm just stunned. Has Swann ever tried WebTV, AOLTV, or any of the myriad poorly built, rug-top boxes? The experience is s-l-o-w.

Again, TiVo and the technologies like it are great. TiVo is the world's most perfect device--but there is no need to add Web access.

Had Swann defended the two-screen experience, maybe I could buy a little of what he says. But having spent countless hours poking around trying to create a quality, user-focused experience for iTV, I can say without fear of contradiction that the iTV (industry) has learned next to nothing over the last 25 years.

Rich Dean
San Francisco



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