This article is pretty funny. First of all, I think it confuses IPTV with Internet TV. I think of CSI = for pay over the Internet as being Internet TV, because you aren't = depending on the service provider to make the make the content = available. The service provider only provides a broadband connection. = CBS makes the show available through its own web site. What's funny about the article, as I read it, is that it's saying this: = "Consumers have shown interest in downloading TV shows into their iPods. = So we'll plan to make give home TV systems that same function. But in = doing so, we'll make it so damned complicated that no home user will be = able to install his own TV anymore. They will instead have to buy = integration services, and we'll soak them on an on-going basis for this = service." The image is that of the hapless TV consumer, with fish hook firmly = implanted in his cheek, being reeled in, all the while being told he = really does want it this way, trust us. The words are only slightly different. Here's the actual quote: "We are the ones who know there is a revolution in home entertainment = and home networking. The consumer now wants it. We will tell them how to = get it, bring it in for them, set it all up and all they have to do is = sit back and click." Bert --------------------------------------- http://www.digitaltvdesignline.com/;jsessionid=3DPIYALCLJNDDYQQSNDBCSKH0C= JUMEKJVN April 12, 2006 Serving up IPTV The table's been set with top-tier video content--now it's up to = integrators to sell services around Internet Protocol TV technology By Karen Jones A major barrier to entry that's been blocking the consumer-electronics = industry's determined drive to sell the digital home to consumers--the = lack of top-tier video content for broadband downloading--recently has = been removed. To much media fanfare, consumers have demonstrated they = will pay to download favorites such as "CSI." And, as more content = providers join in, along with bigger broadband pipes and better = resolution formats, digital integrators will have the opportunity to = sell services surrounding Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) technologies and = drive sales of digital home products. The content revolution ignited by iTunes and the iPod Video last year = "opened the floodgates," says Rich Green, CEDIA board member and = president of Rich Green Ink, a custom designer and integrator. Internet = portals for watching, buying and selling video content are now = attracting high-profile partners. MTV, for example, is releasing content = from MTV, MTV2, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon on iTunes. Google Video, = which describes itself as "the first open online video marketplace," = lets users search, watch and purchase content, both studio-driven = ("CSI," "Survivor") and home-grown. Google launched the site to improve = the overall video search experience by giving users access to content = that isn't easily available through traditional online channels. = Partners include CBS, the NBA, Sony BMG, MediaZone.com and many more. = "People are now aware of this and it leads them to think, 'How do I get = this?" and then, 'How do I get this on my TV?' " Green says. Along with the growing consumer awareness, a change is occurring on the = delivery side. Green and others think the key to success in the digital = universe is not about selling products anymore, but selling integration = services. "No one makes money selling iPods or Media Center PCs, and = it's harder and harder to make money selling plasma displays," he says. = "Custom installers have to think about selling their time. They need to = ask, 'How much can I make per minute?' " Most dealers do not know how to = price their services, but billable services, he says, will be important = to sustaining their businesses over the long term. He also advocates = in-house research. "I strongly encourage dealers to buy Media Center = PCs, video iPods and other devices. Download content and get your = engineers to play with this stuff so they can be conversant with it." Green's method for preparing a home network for IPTV and other = technologies begins by what he terms "going upstream." "I first think = about how broadband comes into the home and how we can apply home = networking techniques to get rock-solid Ethernet backbone to support = video streaming all the way up through HDTV-quality multiple screens," = he says. "From that point we can do almost anything we want depending on = what we hook up to the end of that wire." COEXISTING SOLUTIONS Though opinions differ as to what can be called IPTV, Deepa Iyer, = analyst at Parks Associates, says it is an "umbrella term" for both the = current broadband delivery of video, either streamed or downloaded = (iTunes, Movielink, MediaZone, etc.), and the eventual leap to = fiber-optic broadband being readied by the telecom industry. "Everyone = is trying to create the ultimate TV experience," says Iyer, who explains = that telecom-delivered IPTV will enter the home through the next = generation of set-top boxes. Until recently, the question of who would win the battle for the digital = home hinged on the presumed adoption of one =FCber-device linking all = digital home media. Whether that device would be PC-based, such as = Microsoft's Media Center PCs and Intel's new Viiv platform, or a = sophisticated DVR has been hotly debated. It is more likely now that = several technology solutions will coexist as the broadband delivery of = digital video becomes more pervasive, industry experts say. "Certain people will migrate to set-top box/DVR technology because it = accomplishes 75 percent of what they want to get, but I think there is = room for both that and PC-based solutions," says Dan Schwab, vice = president of marketing at D&H Distributing, Harrisburg, Pa. "I sense the = overall market will expand, so it's not that both will fight for a = bigger piece of the pie but that the pie is expanding." The = proliferation of top-line content is "the final ingredient" to making = the digital home complete, Schwab says. Meanwhile, Microsoft is trying to cover many bases. In addition to the = Windows Media Center operating system, the company has been trying to = push Microsoft TV, a non-PC-based client and server software platform = that will run on new IPTV set-top boxes. Ed Graczyk, director of = marketing for Microsoft TV, says the eventual deployment of IPTV will = change the role of the television and improve the perceived value of the = connected home. "Up until today, TV has been a closed proprietary architecture," he = says. "You don't even have commonality across cable platforms. IPTV is = an open platform that brings a host of benefits." Some of these include = freedom from broadcast schedules; more connectivity between the TV and = home devices; a new generation of IPTV-ready receivers such as TVs, DVD = players and game consoles; hundreds of channel choices; and niche market = programming, all of which will lead to a more competitive marketplace. The connected home of today has been, for the most part, "all about = connecting PCs or game consoles and home automation," Graczyk says. As = new technologies emerge, so does consumer frustration, giving digital = integrators an opportunity to step in. "Today you need a Ph.D. just to = buy a TV set," he says. "I get confused and I'm not your average = consumer." But Graczyk cautions that video is different than connecting = PCs and whole house audio. "The difference in the bandwidth required for = streaming music and IPTV is pretty substantial, and there are nuances to = video in terms of quality, standards and formats," he says. "Custom = installers can help consumers wade through the morass of options. It's = not just the network but all the pieces." Though content providers are scrambling to find an Internet portal to = sell their products, that was not always the case, says Gordon Dolfie, = director of marketing for Intel's Content Service Group. "Back in 2002, = Hollywood was accusing the PC industry of being in the business solely = to pirate content," he says. "We never agreed," adding that Intel worked = hard "behind the scenes" for years to iron out digital rights management = issues. Now studios are starting to release their best content online = and revisit distribution models. Intel has partnered with actor Morgan = Freeman's production company Revelations, for example, to form = ClickStar. They will release "Ten Items Or Less," starring Freeman, = simultaneously in movie theaters and via their Viiv technology platform = later this year. Some of Intel's other Viiv-based content partners = include DirecTV, AOL and Google Video. THE INSTALLATION GAP Dolfie says in addition to technical and business training programs for = digital integrators, Intel will provide material to "pass on to" = consumers. This can help drive sales of new products into the home and = to upgrade existing systems. "It is a huge opportunity for the channel," = says Bill Davidson, marketing manager for Intel's North American = channel. "People still want and need help," he says. "Custom installers = will thrive but they need to figure out how they will differentiate = their offerings." One way integrators can do that is by offering differently priced = packages that fit the budgets and needs of particular clients. Bill = Ablondi, analyst at Parks Associates, sees an "installation gap" between = the very high-end consumer, who might spend between five and six figures = on a whole house entertainment system, and the midlevel mass market. = "Let's suppose we are not high-end customers but want a digital home. = How are we going to get it?" He adds that if a customer spends $2,000 = for a PC and an integrator is going to charge another $2,000 to network = it, they may not see the value-add. "The question for integrators is, = 'How am I going to make money and what are the margins we are going to = get on the system?' " Integrators, he and others say, are experimenting = with prepackaged systems, which could be attractive to the midlevel = buyer. "Someone comes into your store and says, 'I have $4,000 to $5,000 = to spend on a home theater system, what can you do for me?' The dealer = can put a prepackaged system on the table right there," Ablondi says. Coming up with a sensible pricing model so midlevel consumers feel they = are getting good value and integrators aren't undercharging is a fine = line, Green says. This is further complicated by misleading advertising = from big-box outlets. Many consumers are lulled into thinking that = networking is really plug-and-play so why pay for installation, whereas = plug-and-play is not usually the case. "Consumers need help and should = pay appropriate fees to certified installers," Green says. "I have been = in the business 27 years and every day I feel I have something to = learn." High-end, midlevel or the eventual mass market, today's digital = integrator is the bridge between the creators, manufacturers and = providers of emerging digital technologies and the consumers who want to = utilize them throughout the home. "We are like the town criers of old," = says Dino White, president of Dicyn Solutions, a New York-based = technology provider and digital home networker. "We are the ones who = know there is a revolution in home entertainment and home networking. = The consumer now wants it. We will tell them how to get it, bring it in = for them, set it all up and all they have to do is sit back and click." All material on this site Copyright 2006 CMP Media LLC. 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