Remember what television was like in the 1970s? There were no DVD players, not even VHS players yet -- you watched what was on when it was broadcast. If a movie came to television, it was over a broadcast network (no Netflix). For much of the 1970s, there wasn't even cable television, so you were stuck with a handful of VHF broadcast stations and (if you could dial them in) a few UHF stations where you might find reruns on tiny local stations for some "niche" content.
Television has changed dramatically since those days, but in a few years, the way television is today will seem as archaic as those memories of television back in the 1970s.
The reason is that the capabilities of your computer will be coming to your television, and the two will merge together. This may not seem too revolutionary, but it will be.
The capabilities of computers have been rushing ahead over the past dozen years, while the capabilities of your television have stayed roughly the same over the same time period (with some incremental increases, such as the replacement of VHS with DVDs, or the increase in visual quality ushered in by HD and the increase in size and display quality ushered in by LCD and plasma screens).
Think about some of the things that computers currently allow you to do that televisions do not, such as send content along to your friends and family through an email, or access the same content on any device you want to, from your desktop to your laptop to your handheld device (a Blackberry or an iPhone is really a small computer more than a telephone).
Those features are becoming available through IPTV, or the delivery of video content over networks that use internet protocols rather than the currently dominant methods (primarily cable). This change will be revolutionary not because of greater bandwidth (cable enables the delivery of tremendous bandwidth), but rather because of greater "interact-ability": with internet protocols (as we all know by now because of our use of IP with computers), you can have two-way communication, and you can have communities.
You can see an amazing documentary and email it to your friend. If it is something that would interest all the people from your college sorority, you can share it with all of them (or with any other groups that you join or maintain over computers).
Like other content that lives in the IP network (such as this blog, or your website), you will be able to access all of the video content that you watch on your television on any other device you choose to use, wherever you happen to be. You will be able to control that video with any other device that is on the network (you can use your iPhone as your living room remote, for example, or access your favorite sports team from your laptop while on a business trip).
Like other content that lives on the IP network, you will be able to create your own content. Your parents will be able to watch your HD broadcast of your child's soccer game live (or later on) in their living room in Des Moines (even if you live in Mountain View).
Like other content that lives on the IP network, you will be able to search for it using keywords. But, rather than just being an individualistic effort, your different social networks will also assist you in finding content, much as today (over the IP network) you may receive links to magazine articles or YouTube clips from your friends and family and colleagues.
Some of these capabilities are already available in the first-generation IPTV systems, and the rest and others will probably arrive faster than most people anticipate.
IPTV is going to be a major revolution, and it is just beginning. It is probably something that you should become aware of. It is also one of the heralds of the approach of the next paradigm shift that will be just as important and revolutionary as the paradigm shift created by the arrival of inexpensive computing power and its application to various aspects of life during the period from 1980 to 2000.
For later blog posts dealing with this same subject, see also:
- "Look for paradigm shifts" 01/03/2008
- "Must-read: 'Unleashing the Exaflood' by Brett Swanson and George Gilder" 02/22/2008
- "Yahoo, Microsoft, and Cloud Computing" 05/09/2008
- "Big changes coming" 05/28/2008
- "Big changes coming, part II" 07/08/2008
- "Exaflood update" 06/01/2010.