TelcoTV: IPTV Is Stagnating
"IPTV innovation is too slow, and we have to do something about that," said Brook Longdon, a former Myrio executive who's now head of media and entertainment at Nokia Networks . (See Siemens Snaps Up Myrio and IPTV Roundup: What's With NSN? )
His point is that in eight years of discussing IPTV, the conversation hasn't changed much. People still talk about applications like caller ID and multiple sports angles. And the idea of ordering pizza by TV (a favorite example of keynote speakers through the years) still isn't a reality, at least not at Longdon's house.
The key to making telco TV succeed is in the content -- providing good TV. But because content owners hoover up the profits from TV and movies, telcos need to sell applications in addition to regular content if they're to generate any profit margins. And that's where IPTV has stalled, Longdon said, because of the paralyzing way in which applications are developed and released.
For example, the factors that make an application "cool" aren't the same across North America, Europe, and Asia/Pacific, yet telcos continue to obsess over building applications that can scale worldwide.
The result is that every region gets a less than optimal product, and the region with the most money to spend gets one that "sucks the least," Longdon said. "As I'm looking to align my roadmaps with my developer teams and deciding how to spend my money, I'm always aiming for the middle."
That's why the industry needs to bring in other ideas and more developers, said the NSN man, creating a phenomenon akin to the iPhone app store. "We can do that kind of thing here in IPTV."
The key, he added, is to provide development tools for free. That's the best way to get the tools into the hands of someone who can do something interesting with them.
"The killer app is being able to make things quickly. It's being able to make applications in a throwaway manner. We have to open these things up if we want to get to something other than just moving the bar forward slowly."
Along similar lines, Longdon said the industry has to agree on standards more quickly. The usual pattern -- in telco TV and elsewhere -- is for companies to push their own technologies. "I'd say it was time we, as an industry, did a better job coming together and putting some of that aside."
One way to speed things up would be to borrow standards from other places, such as Web applications. For instance, cross-platform viewing is already possible with YouTube, he noted.
Longdon's talk was a contrast to that of Ramu Potarazu, CEO of Avail-TVN , who immediately preceded him. Potarazu gave a pep talk explaining why telcos will win in the TV battles, just as they prevailed over ISPs years ago.
Potarazu did warn telcos that they have to move quickly in order to keep up with lightning changes in technology and the growing over-the-top threat, and that they have to learn how to sell video services. "You can have the best platform, but it's going to be up to each one of you to market," he said. "Marketing video services is different from marketing broadband."
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading