- 8 Jul 08, 11:01 GMT
From work to leisure to play, our future looks set to be dominated by the telly.
Over 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?
First 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.
Mediaroom 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.
As 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.
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