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Giving interactive TV a chance

A reader writes: While there is a fundamental difference between "lean forward" computer use and "lean back" TV use...this is destined to be obliterated.


Giving interactive TV a chance

In response to the May 3 Perspectives column by Charles Cooper, "Interactive TV: The big kludge":

Though the article is quite accurate in its overview of the marketplace, I think it is missing the bigger picture of interactive services that are developing and, more importantly, starting to be implemented as we speak.

While there is a fundamental difference between "lean forward" computer use and "lean back" TV use, resulting in struggles between active culture vs. passive culture, and sufficient graphics vs. exquisite graphics, this is destined to be obliterated. Convergence is a process, not a means to an end--and one that will likely change audience habits.

The first stage is the Federal Communications Commission's push for digital access for customers in lockstep with the adoption of PVRs (personal video recorders). Customers will begin to realize the "time efficiency" with these technologies. They will schedule program viewing and TV time. As they do this, they will want their experience to be more gratifying. To use an oft-cited example, they will set their PVR/set-top box to order a pizza 20 minutes before they are scheduled to view the game. This is one example.

In regard to the examples you detailed, current communications (instant messaging, e-mail) will mostly be used during commercials. You'll have the option of displaying this communication stream live or putting it on hold. Would you not use a service that allowed you to stay where you were and write an e-mail/IM during a commercial? The barrier to this is graphical representation and keyboard/remote navigation.

The article gives ample due to lackluster design and other prohibiting factors for digital and interactive TV services. However, it does not give proper credit to functions that will work through the television. And to prove the point that the television can be a hub, look at the success of devices in the media industry: the abundant success and growth plans for PlayStation 2 and Xbox. While you may argue this is to protect Microsoft Windows, there is a major play to educate, integrate and conceptualize interactive use between customer and television at an early age.

Matthew Tomaszewicz
San Francisco



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