Screen Future: An Interesting Moment in History

As many of you might know, GoogleTV was launched nearly a fortnight ago, and is clearly the first in a number of SmartTV experiences that will become available on the market soon. Thinking about TV futures is, then, very timely. I have asked my Brian David Johnson who is Intel’s first Consumer Experience Architect to talk a little bit about his new book, and his thoughts about where television has been, and where it’s going. Here’s Brian:

For long as we have had TV people have been predicting its future.Since the popularization of the Internet, people have been writing about how it will conquer the TV in the battle for our eyeballs. But the reports of TV’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Conversely others have said that the Internet will never grow up, never garner enough audience share to matter and basically remain the playground for geeks and kids. These folks sound a bit like Rex Lambert, editor of the Radio Times that proclaimed in 1936 that “Television won’t matter in your lifetime or mine.” Or even the legendary American inventor Thomas Edison who, in 1922, was sure that “the radio craze will die out in time” (Bob Seidensticker, Future Hype, 2006). The Internet as a personalized information and content delivery system has changed where, when, and how we are entertained. Likewise good old-fashioned TV remains the center of our homes and the center of our entertainment lives. We are not watching less TV, we’re watching more than ever before. In 2009 we watched more TV in more places, on more devices, with more entertainment to choose from.

Last year Apple Inc sold nearly 9 million iPhones (Apple) and this year FutureSource has forecasted that nearly 10 million Internet connected TVs will be sold. These devices have the ability to radically change how, where and when we are entertained. The introduction of millions of these devices that offer substantially new entertainment experiences has had a tremendous affect on every industry they touch. From the entertainment industry to high-tech manufacturers and even service providers; no one has been unaffected. There has been a kind of shock to the system that has produced an interesting moment in history. The entire future of entertainment it seems is up in the air.

This shock to the system is not only affecting our entertainment habits but our social habits as well. Dr. Alex Zafiroglu is a cultural anthropologist at Intel. She has spent the last few years observing this change from inside people’s homes all over the world. She has observed something truly remarkable in her field studies and conversations with consumers. “As more and more people adopt new internet-enabled devices, services and interfaces that offer mobile, continuously updated, personalized, and rich media experiences,” she explained. “People’s daily entertainment consumption is extending far beyond the reach of the stationary, shared and less personalized television set. We are witnessing a period of flux in personal practices and social rules for engaging with these devices and services, as people work out how to fit the possibilities these devices offer into their daily lives. I think we can expect the use of these devices and services to be sources of tension within and beyond the home, and to be topics for public debate for a few more years before they, too, become as unremarkable as sitting on your couch watching a syndicated sitcom on your TV set on a weekday afternoon.”

June 30th 2010 will see the publication of my book, Screen Future: The Future of Entertainment, Computing and the Devices we Love. The book examines this interesting moment in time, exploring what it means when TV and our entertainment become more informative, ubiquitous, personal and social. With the help of my colleagues here at Intel and a diverse collection of industry experts, we explore the historical, technical, economic and cultural implications from this shock to the system, a shock that will be felt for years to come.

Screen Future explores the big unanswered questions: What do consumers really want? What are the real world implications for bringing about the future of TV across multiple platforms? As the experience of watching television permeates all of consumer electronics devices how will it be delivered and paid for? Pulling from global consumer research, Screen Futurediscusses what real people say they want from TVs in the future and how the entertainment and technology industries might bring this vision to market in ways that work for all involved.

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