TV: The Future of Computing

Predicting the future is a hopeless, thankless task, with ridicule to begin with and, all too often, scorn to end with. –Isaac Asimov

In January 1965 Asimov wrote an article, The World of 1990, for Diners’ Club Magazine where he predicted that “the television set will be, more than ever, the center of the home” (Isaac Asimov, Is Anyone There?, 1967). Asimov may have thought predicting the future was a hopeless and thankless task, but he sure got that prediction right. A 2009 Nielsen study showed that the average American spends 153 hours a month watching or interacting with their TV (Nielsen, 2009). Compare this to only 29 hours spent using the Internet and it’s clear that the TV is the single most-used consumer electronics device in the home.

Since its invention TV has been a wildly dynamic and evolving experience. With its roots in bars and taverns to its adoption into our homes, bedrooms, kitchens, mobile devices–entertainment and TV have been in a constant state of change. Just look at the parade of boxes and technologies we’ve integrated into our TVs over the decades; game consoles, VHS/DVD players, DVRs and even 3D are proof of TV’s ingenious adaptability.

Over the past few years we’re witnessed another monumental yet subtle shift in our entertainment. Not only has the Internet come to TV but TV has come to the Internet. The Internet has brought entertainment to all the screens in our lives. Even the very definition of entertainment has been transformed to mean a personalized and fluid mix of TV shows, movies, music, games, applications and social networking. You can check Twitter on your TV. You can watch movies on your iPhone. You can watch TV shows on your laptop. Entertainment and TV has been decoupled from the living room. You can now personalize TV with whatever you want to watch, play or browse to any screen you have handy. TV has now become a compute task.

The hardware, software, service and economic implications of this shift are being written today as consumers rush to embrace this new freedom of access and control. For me the really interesting questions are what does it mean when entertainment becomes the leading usage for all our computing devices? How do we take something as rich and engaging a TV and use it as a platform for social interaction? What does the future of game play look like when we can play the game effortlessly across every device we own? What does that look like when it’s all in 3D?

In 1965 Asimov saw that TV will be the center of the home* in 2010 we are now seeing that TV and entertainment is not only at the center of our daily lives but it’s driving the future of computing and the devices we love.

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