The IPTV Revolution
by Joseph P. Firmage
The Strategic Landscape
The long-anticipated convergence of television, radio and the Internet is upon us. The ability to broadcast high-quality video and audio streams - with interactivity - from any source directly to millions of living rooms, vehicles and wireless devices through IP connections is now emerging. And the implications to traditional media are incalculable. Content production and distribution entities as we know them will cease to be able to defend their market share via limited supply of "channel spectrum" or access to it. In other words, the Internet is about to do to television and radio what it has done to the world of print publishing in the past 10 years, by yielding infinite channel spectrum. The role of rent-seeking intermediaries, such as branded channels and content-controlling service providers, will be threatened as the distance between producer and consumer/citizen is reduced. Broadcasting will not cease to exist, as there will always be a need/desire for live sports and live performance programming, first-run programming and news programming. But the universe of video and audio programming accessible through interactive digital TVs and radios will radically expand, as content-on-demand through Internet-based delivery emerges. This trend is inevitable, and those enterprises that ignore it will be marginalized.
This phenomenon raises an essential question: how will viewers navigate, explore and consume media content in an infinite universe of channels?
On today's Web, this question is answered mainly by Google's Search box. However useful that may be for active knowledge workers (and it is far from ideal), such an answer is completely untenable for passive - "couch potato" - modes of audience engagement and interaction. What is needed is a radically new, next generation multimedia "TV Guide" designed to equip ordinary people with the power to navigate, explore and efficiently consume their favorites among potentially millions of channels of real-time and on-demand media content. After four years and $10 million in R&D, ManyOne Networks has developed the software that fulfills this need, and we are preparing to launch it in stages over the next several months.
The Digital Universe and the ManyOne Platform
ManyOne is the technology platform and business infrastructure powering the "Digital Universe" -- a new directory of highly interactive, trusted Web portals designed to revolutionize online education, entertainment, communications and commerce. The Digital Universe can be seen as a Web 2.0 portal network designed to take full advantage of both the current Web and the coming revolutions of IP-TV and IP-Radio. This network of immersive, advertising-free portals is being created and edited by a growing public-private alliance of the most trusted organizations on the planet, a kind of "PBS of the Internet".
Portals built by this alliance will ultimately span tens of thousands of subjects of human interest, from space to earth to human health, from culture to music to sports. It will offer users, across all demographics, a next-generation, far more compelling successor to the "Web directories" that became popular during the early days of the World Wide Web. It will enable users to explore and enjoy the Web, and interact with each other, in ways never before possible.
An historic endeavor in both scale and potential impact on modern media, the Digital Universe is made possible by four key components:
1. A Growing Public-Private Alliance of Institutions and Companies
2. A Breakthrough Technology Platform
3. A Sustainable Subscriber-Supported Business Model
4. An Ethical Ownership and Governance Architecture
Each of these components is described in the company's Executive Summary and Business Plan.
Four of the central innovations we've pioneered relevant to IP-TV and IP-radio include:
A network of experts to review content - the channels (portals) in the Digital Universe are edited for best selection of content by a growing network of experts in fields from physics to soccer to scuba diving. This is powered by a back-end publishing Intranet accesible to all authorized editors around the globe -- potentially numbering in the hundreds of thousands of simultaneous editors and hundreds of millions of contributors.
The Universal Navigator - a highly visual, intuitive way to navigate tens of thousands of channels (portals) of content, starting from a few favorite channels, without even clicking a mouse or tapping a button, by simply moving your cursor.
An "edge-caching" engine - enabling the Digital Universe to cache any kind of media content or stream, somewhat like TiVo but far more generalized, so that users on ordinary DSL and cable connections can obtain HDTV and Sony Playstation 2 levels of quality and interactivity for Web, TV and radio content.
An architecture for any client device - Web 2.0-based XML protocol enabling the Digital Universe to be used in PCs and customized and embedded in set-top boxes, game consoles, PDAs and cell phones.