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It's All About the Living Room (2011 Predictions)

To see more of my 2011 tech predictions - click here This will be the year where the internet finally makes it's way into the living room... and I don't mean as a laptop or iPad as you watch television. For many homes, the TV is already the focal point of the living room and it's been a matter of time before the web and the television hook up in an intelligent, simple way. To date, this has mostly been accomplished by bulky solutions geared towards techies: ie connecting a Mac Mini to the television. But all the trends point towards 2011 being the year that the living room begins to go digital in a more mainstream way: - Television prices have gone way down. You can now buy gorgeous, large TVs for under $1,000 (less than many laptops). Those TVs have numerous inputs are are plug-and-play for other connected devices.

- You can spend more and get an internet connected television... which comes equipped with widgets, apps, etc.

- The content is there: Netflix and Pandora and beloved by millions. Along with a growing number of other great apps and content sources (ie: ESPN3, Hulu,, etc) - the web plays an important role in your media consumption. This trend will continue in a massive way (which is why folks like Comcast and ESPN are racing to address it).

- External devices are readily available, relatively inexpensive and are easily integrated: Google TV, Boxee, Apple TV, etc.

- The web now runs in the air. Think about most of your daily computing needs (certainly those that would run on the TV): email, browsing, search, light documents, Facebook, etc. All of this can be done from a browser and does not require a fancy machine... thus enabling lightweight 'computers' like the Google TV to be super effective.

- Someone(s) will figure out more compelling ways to watch TV... which is becoming a passive activity (our TV is frequently on but I am rarely ever fully engaged). Google TV is close: the screen-in-screen approach is compelling. The solution may be appearance related (ie Google TV) or perhaps activity (ie GetGlue, Facebook integration, etc). Whatever it looks like - there is lots of opportunity for innovation... and our TV-watching habits encourage it.

Comcast Uses Xfinity.TV and iPhone, iPad App to Move Online, Counter Netflix & Hulu

It is popular to hate Comcast: mostly because so many of us spend lots of money with them ... and have few choices otherwise. Between cable, internet and phone, the monthly Comcast bill can be one of your largest recurring payments (behind house / rent and car). But let's give Comcast some credit: they are releasing better products (even if it should have happened sooner). Two examples:

1. effectively Comcast's on-demand product with a deeper library and access to your home DVR. Quality is excellent and the library is extensive. For Comcast subscribers, this makes you think twice about Hulu Pro and Netflix (additional monthly bills). Also worth noting: does a pretty good job integrating Facebook and works very well on Google TV:

2. Comcast's iPhone & iPad Applications

It arrived much later than DirecTV's - but the applications are certainly useful. It has several features which are probably unused for most (Comcast email, phone, etc), but the TV Guide and DVR control are great. And for the Xfinity application, the ability to control your television is terrific (and is a challenge to high end bluetooth / IR remote control systems).

These two products (and the ad campaigns supporting them) demonstrate that Comcast is thinking / worried about the migration from TV to web, mobile and tablet. It also demonstrates the impact that Netflix, Hulu and others represent.

Can the Apple iTV Bridge Family Room & Web? I'll Bet So.

Fascinating chart on AlleyInsider this week noting that, for the first time ever, pay TV has lost subscribers. A little earlier in the week, the NYTimes argued that TV is changing (web, applications, on-demand) but paid television still rules the livingroom.

I shared the NYTimes article on Facebook with the following the note: "We will break our dependence. But - it will still likely include paywalls... but rather than for cable - it will be for content."

And that's why I believe the forthcoming Apple iTV is important to the TV / Web transition. First, it's at the right price: supposedly $99. And knowing Apple, it be designed simply enough that connecting the device to the TV and the web will be easy as 1. 2. 3. Until now, consumers had two options - both of which disqualified the above points (price and simplicity):

1. Buy a mini-computer (ie Mac Mini or Dell Zino) and connect it to the TV. Plus: full operating system and highly customizable. Con: very expensive (~$500-$1,000), complicated and techy.

2. Purchase a brand new, web-enabled TV OR a gaming device. Pro: out of the box usage. Con: expensive and limited / poor experience, content selection, etc.

If the rumors are right - Apple can change this with:

- a $99 price point (fraction of any other reasonable alternative)

- an iOS interface that tens of millions of users are familiar (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

- simple integration and web browsing (try using the web on XBox or PS3 - it's *very* limited)

- and an unmatched catalog of content and applications (not to mention developers - which is more important)

Suddenly web browsing, iTunes, Pandora, Netflix streaming, MLB At Bat, etc are all imaginable. And its a more natural solution - at least in the short term - than through the television manufacturer, the gaming devices, etc.

DirecTV Commercial with John Michael Higgins - They Just Don't Get It

My favorite ad campaign at the moment is DirecTV's spoof of Comcast and other cable providers. They have the 'Best in Show'-cast starring and John Michael Higgins tries to convince the executives of ways that his cable company should combat DirecTV. The best spot is when Higgins says they need to go viral and "blog it out". Great stuff.

But DirecTV doesn't get it.

The commercials are terrific and ripe for blogging (as they suggest)... but the ads aren't even embeddable or available on YouTube. Here is their flash file in widget form - enjoy the commercial and the irony:

MOJO HD... MOJO is Almost Awesome

After hearing rave reviews from many friends, I gave MOJO HD a shot (a new all-HD TV channel)... and you know what? It's really good. The programming is v smart, different than anything that's available elsewhere and is all available in HD.

My favorite show is Start-Up Junkies - which follows Ron Wiener and Earth Class Mail (an intriguing Seattle start up that Russell has raved about since launch). Wall Street Warriors and Bobby G: Adventure Capitalist are also great.

... But, for a brand that is selling itself as intelligent and cutting-edge, MOJO ironically doesn't cooperate with DVRs - see MOJO doesn't tag their programs with episode-level data....

resulting in Comcast's inability to decipher what episodes are new / reruns... causing my DVR to record *every* MOJO show... causing my DVR to overwrite all my other non-MOJO programming...

Come on MOJO! You record all of your content in HD and you make all of your online content embeddable. Clearly you are tech savvy... so start tagging your programs as either "new" or "reruns". I beg you!