Maggie Shiels

The box in the corner revamped

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 8 Jul 08, 11:01 GMT

From work to leisure to play, our future looks set to be dominated by the telly.

Boxing on IPTVOver the last week I have had a couple of tours from two major hi-tech companies who are making a massive push for your wallet and your attention via the 1080 pixel screen.

First up was Cisco, a company that deals in routers and switches to help direct internet traffic. Their offering is called TelePresence and has been around since 2006. In really, really simple terms it's video conferencing with a lot of knobs on.

The aim of TelePresence is to link two physically separated rooms so they resemble a single room, even though they may actually be at opposite ends of the world.

A series of high definition cameras, state of the art microphones, some serious internet bandwidth and whopping 65 inch TV consoles certainly make the whole experience seem a bit more lifelike than the old school video conferencing.

In fact my TelePresence guide Ron Inouye told me "Sixty per cent of all communication is non-verbal so providing a 100% real life sense is key to making this work."

One trick they use is to have the conference table recede into the screen so it looks like you are all on one screen. And also for anyone who moves out of frame on one screen to be followed into the next screen.

From a business perspective, it certainly seems to be paying dividends for Cisco.

The company claims from a 0% market share in 2006, they now have 70% with more than 100 customers. Added to that, TelePresence represents Cisco's fastest growing new product in the company's history.

From a savings points of view, the firm claims to be reducing travel budgets by over $150m by not having their execs jet across the world spending fruitless hours in the air and at airports. Certainly the rising cost of fuel is another selling point. HP is another big player in this field.

As well as the financial benefits, Cisco is also claiming some green kudos. Cisco boss John Chambers has set a target of reducing greenhouse gases by 25% by 2012. The firm maintains that by grounding staff and urging them to communicate across the business using TelePresence will be a boon to achieving this goal.

So what has all this got to do with the ordinary consumer?

TeleworkingFirst there is the obvious attraction for teleworking: allowing you to perhaps live in one part of the world for, say, personal or financial reasons, but also letting you do a job you really enjoy, or that pays well, remotely via a TV screen.

Secondly Cisco is aiming to launch a major offensive in the next 12 months to get into as many living rooms as possible. Mr Chambers sees TelePresence working on two levels.

"If it's just to check in on your family, you'll have a lot of early adopters using it, but if all of a sudden you begin to use if for your business, like I would use it, especially when the majority of my customers are now outside the time zone I'm working it, it becomes key.

"It also depends on when you start to tie in sports and entertainment."

And this is vital I would suggest to broadening its appeal. Cisco puts a price tag of around $10,000 on a home kit but reckons economies of scale may mean it will be a lot cheaper.

Just a wee jaunt down the road in Mountain View is Microsoft TV which is also making a concerted effort to secure a prime time presence in our living room. And our bedroom and study and kitchen for that matter. In fact, anywhere you can mount a TV screen.

Their Mediaroom internet protocol TV or IPTV, which they rolled out last year, is about putting your life on the box.

Joe SeidelMediaroom aims to be the one stop shop for your photos, music, movies, games and TV programmes. It wants to take any content you can get on a pc and online and put it on your telly and let you customise your viewing. It is not alone in trying to grab box office market share.

And for gamers, the ultimate: the ability to do all this through the Xbox 360 as well as play games or watch TV while chatting to your gaming buddies.

While the software giant is bragging that it now has two million subscribers to the service, Joe Seidel, the director of Global Partner Ecosystems, whizzed through the features like a tornado. He showed off everything from picture in picture to DVR and video on demand anywhere in the house but it was the NASCAR feature that got him really razzed.

NASCARAs an example of what developers or you can do to personalise your TV experience, Joe punched up a live race and demonstrated how you could tune into the cockpit camera of your favourite driver or listen to the pit crew shout directions. You could also flip between drivers and download from the internet all sorts of stats and biographies. And all this while the race is going on.

When I mentioned to Joe that there was no way you would actually watch the actual race because there is so much to distract you from the main attraction, he agreed it was a conundrum. But he reckoned it was not a big deal and that it's a shift we will soon all take for granted.

"The last unconnected device in your house that is no longer connected to the internet is the TV. With IPTV you are now connected. This is what the future looks like and traditional broadcast TV is on its way out because of this."

While analysts believe ten million subscribers need to sign up to IPTV before it can be seen as a real contender, there is no doubt that there are many companies over and above Cisco and Microsoft looking to dominate the living room proving there is everything to play for.

Stay tuned!


  • Comment number 1.

    You didn't happen to ask Microsoft where our Xbox 360 and BT Vision hook-up had gotten to, did you?

    It was expected the middle of this year, and there hasn't been a peep since January. Is it going to be just one of those indefinitely delayed projects again?

  • Comment number 2.

    Whats so different about what Microsoft are offering that you can't already get through Sky for example changing the camera angle etc through the red button. Please do a survey to find out how many people actually use such things other than on a whim. I'd imagine there would be a great percentage that regularly use it.

    If people want interaction they know they can get it via consoles/pc/mobile and various other platforms. The TV is and always has been a one way brain relaxing form of recreation.

    Add to that the fact that TV's usually concern more than one person viewing it at any given time. How aggravating is it when your all comfortable watching something together when somebody (Usually Dad) changes the channel or turns ceefax etc on. This usually leads us back to what we were watching without interuption or distraction.

    It'll just be another fad!

  • Comment number 3.

    "I meant wouldn't use it" above top paragraph!

  • Comment number 4.

    The Microsoft mediaroom is just another example of technology that has been around for ages that non of the big distributors has bothered to pick up on, probably because they want to get the pennies out of us on old technologies first.

    Really by now we should have a TV and speaker system in our lounge which has all of our media, teleconferencing, downloadable access to any content that we want, voice control, games console and home automation. In fact we should be able to wire our whole house like this.

    All of these technologies are mature enough to release. Unfortunately everyone is trying to lock us into their own system and consumer are afraid.

    Why not just come up with an open standard and let consumers make a choice over which brand they want.

  • Comment number 5.

    Not sure if you know/knew this but Sony have something very similar coming out in the next few months for the ps3.

  • Comment number 6.


    Sorry its called



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