Pessimistic about TV Apps

I spoke on Guardian’s Tech Weekly Today, about how I see the future for dedicated TV Apps somewhat lacking.

I was on an episode of Tech Weekly today (23 minutes in) talking about Connected TV alongside the head of the DTG, Richard Lindsay-Davies. I was perhaps a bit down on TV apps and wanted to expand on that a little, in the hope of being more nuanced.

I think that Video Apps on the TV video are great: I love using iPlayer and NetFlix on my TV/PS3/AppleTV far more than on my laptop. You can glance away, and glance back when something interesting happens, in the way you watch TV. You’re not cmd-tabbing through windows to try and find the iPlayer tab before the interesting bit ends.

The BBC Olympics application will let fans have access to nearly all the sports, not constrained by how many channels the BBC has – a useful extension and I think it will be popular. The Twitter app on my TV? Not so much, I used it once, and used it to say how awful sending that tweet was.

I really don’t think we’ll manage to have that many TV-only apps. No developer without lots of video (the Broadcasters, Netflixs and YouTubes of the world) is going to pick up a TV SDK – they’re going to learn Android or iOS programming. There’s already a lot of fragmentation in the TV space and billing is never going to be as easy, and lucrative, as on the mobile platforms.

I think that in the future we’ll see some of these phone/tablet apps throwing interesting graphics and content to the TV screen, like the scores at the end of a round. There’s scope for real innovation here, but it’s about feedback, not interaction.

The TV should be the easiest screen to get content on, you shouldn’t have to think about how you get content there: It’s about leaning back and relaxing. We tried ordering pizza via TV in 1998, it didn’t really work. Today we’d just do it from our tablet or smartphone.

Have a listen, let me know what you think, am I being too pessimistic?

The lounge is now a minefield

As we connect more devices in the lounge, we seem to be increasing the complexity of every interaction in what should be a space all about “lean back”

Disclosure: I work on YouView and this post is talking about personal experiences of connected TV devices (including competitors to my employer). Views are mine and not those of my employer.

I’ve recently moved house, and it’s only taken 1 month to get provisioned with wired internet. What did we ever do before we had 3G dongles to tied us over, and smartphones to lessen the connectivity gap? Anyway, I’ve got my internet, I’ve got a Samsung TV that runs apps, and an Apple TV.

The result? My lounge is confusing. I can watch YouTube on my Laptop, my TV, my iPhone or the AppleTV. I have to decide the “how” before the what. The TV does Lovefilm, the Apple TV does iTunes (which has taken more movie rental money than I’ve paid in years on the device that “doesn’t have much content”)

I can control my Apple TV from my iPhone, play iTunes content from my laptop on Apple TV, or pull content on the TV itself via DNLA from my laptop. I can twitter from my TV. Not with anything useful like what I’m watching, but I can multi-tap or t9 my thoughts onto the big screen.

Most of my interactions leave me thinking that second-screen is where it’s at. Tapping away into my iPhone doesn’t distract from the screen, and that’s vital in a shared environment like a lounge.

Finally, as a result of changing routers and network changes I actually said “Yeah, my TV doesn’t cope very well with renewing DHCP”. I almost choked having said that, because it’s not the kind of thing that you should ever say about a TV. TV should be reliable, simple. It’s the device to turn your brain off of an evening, not to engage in hand-to-hand network debug just to get things to work.

Connected TV is where things get interesting: we’ve just got to make them genuinely interesting, and not like ‘interesting’ problems your maths teacher gave you.