The IPTV Trap

4:45 PM -- Let's start the new year with this thought on IPTV:
    "We're building the right network, but for all the wrong reasons."
That's an apocryphal quote, obtained second-hand, attributed to a carrier executive. Whether it's accurate isn't the point -- because I suspect it's right.

IPTV's handicap is that it's still TV. That makes it palatable to the masses (although the U.S. masses don't care yet) and simple for investors to understand. It's a catchy acronym. It's an easy sell.

But more and more people, it seems, think it's not the endgame. TV has the opportunity to transform into something more like the Internet, where people grab what they want regardless of schedules. From that perspective, IPTV is just a truck stop.

Some carriers can sense this -- hence the quote above. And if you don't believe that guy, or me, consider Ricky Wong, chairman of City Telecom (HK) Ltd. , who says IPTV is just a "sexy story for investors." (Thanks to Andrew Schmitt of Nyquist Capital for the link.)

Wong is mainly concerned about IPTV's poor revenue showing so far. But he offers a telling sound bite:
    “I just want to shake some heads and get people to look at IPTV from a different point of view."
Now, the article makes it clear Wong still believes in IPTV. But maybe that's because he, himself, doesn't have a blueprint for the service that would override IPTV. Extrapolate, and you wonder if he's suggesting that someone should be working on one. Of course, someone is. (See Building B Inc.)

Building B might not be the winner, and it might not even put TV closer to the on-demand model; the startup isn't saying much yet. I'm just using it as a convenient pointer. Someone out there is going to find a shortcut to the real TV model of the future, one that better melds the moneymaking broadcast-TV universe with the seek-and-find model of the Internet. Telcos should take note.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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