Orange: “Smartphone is the ultimate set top box”

With even Apple not yet having cracked the TV market, the TV industry is still unsure where things are going. Is everyone going to buy a Smart TV, will everyone hook up a separate box to their existing set, or do they already own the perfect solution?

According to Patrice Slupowski, VP Digital Innovation & Communities, Orange-France Telecom group, speaking at Apps World in London, your smartphone (or tablet) could in fact be the ultimate set top box. After all, it’s with you all the time and can, quite likely, be connected to your TV.

Could the smartphone solve all of the industry questions and debates about how to standardise Smart TV platforms, give consistent user interfaces and unify third-party app and content stores? Not necessarily all, but it could certainly solve a significant number of issues – especially with the younger generation.

The time spent in front of the TV is still increasing, but consumers are more likely doing other things while watching. There’s the high attention TV programming that might keep the attention of the viewer, but the growing trend for low attention programming (talent shows, makeover shows etc) makes it far more likely that the viewer will only partially watch, looking up only when there’s laughter, shouting or an emotional scene that attracts attention for a few seconds.

According to Slupowski, we’ve seen the end of the VCR and it definitely isn’t coming back. Video on Demand and the PVR (Sky+, TiVo etc) is also changing the timing of TV watching, where people are far more happy not to watch certain TV shows live.

Set top boxes are also far more numerous than Smart TVs and will remain the case until 2016 at least, with people more likely to want to connect a box to their TV than replace the big-screen set in the living room that they’re happy with.

Your smartphone could get all the content you want

However, there’s another option. With the increase in cloud based services to stream services to your TV, set top box, smartphone or tablet, the smartphone is increasingly being looked upon as the ideal set top box. It’s always with you, and can store (or stream) content from a range of different sources and services. All you need to do is connect your smartphone to a TV – such as using Apple’s AirPlay Mirroring – and you’re done.

There are some issues, such as accessing live TV services, but the traditional broadcast methods (Freeview, Freesat, Sky) are already having to prepare for people becoming happy to watch services via services like Netflix, LoveFilm, iPlayer and other Catch up TV services. It’s why Sky has launched Now TV to avoid being left behind, as well as Sky Go to watch live Sky channels.

Consumers now have immense choices for watching TV. 20,000 VoD movies, 5,000 Catch Up TV propositions, 300 TV channels, billions of YouTube videos, a million mobile apps and 30,000 press articles published every single day. How can anyone choose what to watch?

The current system of recommendations includes simply going through a programme guide on a item to item basis, looking for shows trending on social media services, looking at what is recommended by friends (but how did they discover what to watch in the first place?), or simply picking something randomly.

Smart algorithms to recommend content based on what you’ve watched before have flaws, often recommending content based on far too simplistic parameters, but Netflix and Amazon have been working on making the results more relevant. TiVo has for many years allowed people to rate shows to aid future recommendations.

Remote access

Another issue highlighted by Slupowski is the remote control for all of these new services. What is the best system to control all of the content, apps and games accessed on your TV? Will it be a standard remote, a keyboard, trackpad, Wii-style remote, or emerging technologies like voice and gesture controls?

It’s here that your smartphone or tablet as a remote could also be seen as a logical solution. That is until your battery runs out and you’re left unable to do anything!

Be more social

There’s no shortage of Social TV apps, such as GetGlue, Miso, Zeebox and Intonow.

And then there’s also Orange’s own app; TV Check – already available for iPhone, iPad and Android users.

Slupowski doesn’t believe a Social TV app will automatically make people watch more TV, but it does satisfy the needs of people who have embraced the Second Screen experience.

The key feature of any good Social TV app is the ability to talk to others, most commonly Tweeting opinions and observations while watching a show. However, Orange has also seen many other areas of importance, such as adding a gaming element (offering badges for regular viewers or quizzes with real prizes), helping people discover new programmes, go shopping (buying things seen on screen), watching TV trends or even find out how to participate with the shows (e.g. find out how to be part of the TV audience).

Users can simply point the camera at the TV and use the content recognition feature to identify the programme, with the hashtag for the programme automatically identified and added whenever you Tweet, making it incredibly quick and easy to get engaged.

And while the industry keeps talking about how to make Smart TV work, many of us will be happy to just kick back and fire up an app like TV Check…

TV Check screens

 

About author
Involved in tech since 1990, from selling mobile phones and computers, to writing about them for trade and consumer publications, such as Mobile News, What Mobile, Know Your Mobile and Stuff. If writing about mobiles wasn't exciting enough, being paid to watch TV during work hours is the icing on the cake. Jonathan on Google+

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