Ironic that at about the same time that Viacom's trial was under way with AT&T and that several other courageous companies were ramping up expensive, proprietary services, a piece of software called Mosaic was being widely distributed on an open network to basically deliver nothing fancier than text and still graphics. The inexpensive ability of a user with any computer running any operating system to browse any page soon overwhelmed the momentum of ITV, which was getting bogged down in the technical near-impossibility to reach homes with full-service networks on as broad a scale as the Internet. TV's 500-channel universe was also dwarfed by a World Wide Web of infinite channels.
If 1994 was about TV people trying to emulate PC interactivity, 1997 sounds like what happens when TV things happen to PC people. Software companies like Microsoft watched TCI, Time Warner, and Bell Atlantic take the lumps, only to take its own development efforts out of ITV for the online space. A Microsoft marketing plan in 1996 said "ITV is not dead but will naturally evolve out of current Internet technologies." The company's Tiger server architecture thus became Microsoft Media Server.
|TV's new digital season|
|Part une||Part deux|
|Buzzword||ITV||Digital TV, in all its current iterations|
|Raison d'etre||Watch movies||Watch TV, surf the Web|
|Cable, phone service, media, entertainment||Hardware, software, online content and services|
|Planning cycle||Years||Months (digital TVs not available until late '98, early '99)|
|TCI/Bell Atlantic (merger plans abandoned)||Microsoft/WebTV (no comment from Justice Dept.)|
|Delivery network||Cable, phone lines||Cable, phone lines, wireless|
|User device||TV with set-top box||PC, TV with Net-ready set-top box, digital TV|
|Interface||Through remote||Through keyboard, mouse, remote|
|Content||Traditional video programming||Web pages, streaming multimedia, online interactivity (forums, chats, email), "hybrid" programs|
Indeed, the latest future for interactive television is not in the hands of highly leveraged corporations but in software and hardware firms from cutthroat Internet and technology sectors. The big names include Microsoft, Intel,, IBM, Compaq, Silicon Graphics, Hewlett-Packard, and others. Thanks to these new players, "digital TV" is a catchall term to describe a lot more than simply a better audio and video signal.
As seen by Microsoft's acquisition of WebTV Networks, PC- and Net-savvy companies may be ready to enter the market, but unlike those of "ITV part un," they are sure to hedge their bets. Other distinctions, as shown above, help outline what is making up "ITV part deux."