Project Canvas UK - Coming Late, No Mobile, Open Standards (Sort of)?

written by: Richard Kastelein

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Project Canvas will be launched in the first half of 2011, not by the end of 2010 as originally hinted at - and CTO of the project Anthony Rose is promising open standards, finally answering a question I asked and he did not want to answer over a year ago in 2009 at the first Social TV forum in London.

"It's an open platform and that means anyone can come up with something for the platform," said Rose at Intel's Shaping the Future of TV event in London this week.

"Our priority has been - build the sucker and get it shipped", joked Rose.

Then added that "Maybe Google search is too open". So it appears that Canvas ambiguously sits somewhere in the middle between walled gardens and Google TV. And then painted,  what he sees will be a clumsy Google TV experience.

"If you make something closed, then only you can provide the innovation. When it's open, other people can collaborate to the success of the platform and come up with advancements and applications that you never even dreamed of... as a consumer, maybe Google is a bit too open. When I'm sitting next to my TV in the dark with a keyboard trying to search for things to watch, that's what I call a bit of a consumer fail. We believe that Canvas hits a nice sweet spot between these two with program search, linear TV and recommendations as well," said Rose.

The service will not be coming to smartphones or PCs either, and will be accessible only via set-top boxes at launch. According to NetworkWorld, and mobile phone owners will not be able to access Project Canvas content from their handsets, at least for the foreseeable future said Rose. He added that the issue was not the technology involved but the content rights, as digital rights management issues surrounding content are the problem.

"The problem is not about the technology but the content rights. By creating fragment offerings too soon you will confuse the market," said Rose, "We will have a Canvas website where you can look at listings and choose your favourite shows and this will go straight to your box, but we will keep things on the TV at the moment and not on mobiles or any other devices."

Rose added that Canvas is the next evolution from iPlayer.

"For now it is just a set top box proposition," Rose told the audience, a day after Talk Talk announced that it will give away Canvas set-top boxes with a new broadband offer expected in 2011. Rose told the Intel event audience that his team still had "quite a lot of tech work to do" and that the first half of 2011 is the likely commercial launch timeframe for the telly technology. He said that he expects we'll see TV sets that are Canvas enabled in the future, too.

Sky and Virgin Media have already criticised Project Canvas as being government intervention and potentially market distorting. Rose defended Canvas saying there was nothing stopping both companies allowing their programming to be accessed as free or pay to view through Canvas. The truth about Sky and Virgin Media's intentions is probably that they don't want another platform provider, such as Canvas, making it more difficult to carve up the future Internet telly market between them.

The Telegraph reports that Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP, has predicted that there will be an increasing battle between device manufacturers, platforms and content providers to control the future of the UK TV business adding that that the “increasing battle” would be won out by pay TV platforms, like Sky or Virgin, as device manufacturers, such as Sony, would fail to sign to enough content deals to ensure their dominance and all content owners relied upon the platforms. Sir Sorrell also, interestingly, predicted that pay TV will account for an increasing amount of the UK TV’s industry revenues, moving from the now 39 per cent to 50 or 60 per cent by 2020.

“The real winners [of TV’s changing business model] will be Sky, Virgin and BT,” he noted. "...as advertising will no longer be able to financially support TV as much as it once did. TV subscriptions will increase and account for a greater percentage of UK TV industry revenues."

But as I have been reporting for a couple of years, Project Canvas is faced by a pan-European effort called HbbTV, which has over 60 partners like Canal+, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco and TF1, and is pushing for a continental solution. And over four million HbbTV's are expected to be sold in Germany alone in 2011.

The HbbTV (Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV) consortium announced yesterday the approval of version 1.1.1 of its specification by European standards agency ETSI. It is based on elements of existing specifications including OIPF (Open IPTV Forum), CEA, DVB and W3C. The HbbTV founding members are: ANT Software Limited, EBU, France Televisions, Institut für Rundfunktechnik GmbH, OpenTV Inc, Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V Inc., Samsung, SES ASTRA S.A, Sony Corporation, Television Francaise 1 – TF1. 

Services already delivered through HbbTV include traditional broadcast TV channels, catch-up services, video-on-demand, EPG, interactive advertising, personalisation, voting, games, social networking and other multimedia applications.

HbbTV includes information services extending the concept of teletext to include video and high definition text, more reminiscent of web presentation. German broadcaster, RTL Television will introduce a new information service, HD Text, in 2010 using the HbbTV standard and the CE-HTML user interface language.

HbbTV is expected to be available on a number of CE devices later this year and Opera is pushing hard to be the browser in the HbbTV space.




 


About the Author

Richard Kastelein
Founder of The Hackfest, publisher of TV App Market and global expert on Media & TV innovation, Kastelein is an award winning publisher and futurist. He has guest lectured at MIT Media Lab, University of Cologne, sat on media convergence panel at 2nd EU Digital Assembly in Brussels, and worked with broadcasters such as the BBC, NPO, RTL (DE and NL), Eurosport, NBCU, C4, ITV, Seven Network and others on media convergence strategy - Social TV, OTT, DLNA and 2nd Screen etc.

He is a Fellow of the UK Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and UK Royal Television Society (RTS) member.

Kastelein has spoken (& speaking) on the future of media & TV in Amsterdam, Belfast, Berlin, Brussels, Brighton, Copenhagen, Cannes, Cologne, Curacao, Frankfurt, Hollywood, Hilversum, Geneva, Groningen (TEDx), Kuala Lumpur, London, Las Vegas, Leipzig, Madrid, Melbourne, NYC, Rio, Sheffield, San Francisco, San Jose, Sydney, Tallinn, Vienna, Zurich...

He's been on advisory boards of TEDx Istanbul, SMWF UK, Apps World, and judged & AIB awards, Social TV Awards Hollywood, TV Connect & IPTV Awards.

A versatilist & autodidact, his leadership ability, divergent and synthetic thinking skills evolved from sailing the world 24000 miles+ offshore in his 20′s on sailboats under 12m.

He spent 10 years in the Caribbean media & boating industry as a professional sailor before returning to Europe, to Holland.

A Creative Technologist and Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Metis) his career began in the Canadian Native Press and is now a columnist for The Association for International Broadcasting and writes for Wired, The Guardian & Virgin. His writings have been translated into Polish, German and French. 

One of Kastelein's TV formats was optioned by Sony Pictures Television in 2012. 

Currently involved in a number of startups including publishing TV App Market online, The Hackfest and Tripsearch TV. As CSO for Worldticketshop he helped build a $100m company.

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