Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Unexpected convergence: smartphones and TVs

CES this year was fascinating. The Palm Pre is the perfect example of where I see consumer devices heading. The whole phone is basically a browser; it's built using web standards (HTML, CSS and javascript) from top to bottom. As Tim Bray states, "Speaking personally, as a person who'd never thought I needed the Internet in my pocket, I find myself using my G1 to approve comments and check the weather and fetch maps and so on all the time." To create the Pre, Palm (like Apple and Google), has focused on creating a browser for small screens. They've had to get rid of all the menus, options and buttons that desktop browsers are infested with, while also removing much of the need for fiddly keyboard entry.

Which brings me to the following quote last week from the CEO of Netflix, commenting on new internet-enabled TVs: "Think of Internet on the TV like the Web browser. One view is that the Web, a browser like Firefox, Chrome or I.E., will be right on the television in the next couple years. Another view is, no, a PC-based Web is just too complex. The second one is the phase that we're in now."

I agree that the PC-based browser is just too complex to use while standing metres away with a remote control. But the smartphone-based browser might work perfectly on your TV!

After all, stripping out the menus, options, buttons and keyboard navigation is the first step to getting a working browser on the TV, too. And though you can't touch your TV from the sofa, you can imagine using a control like the Wii to navigate a pointer round the screen in much the same way. Download the Wii Opera browser to see what I mean. Or just imagine the Palm Pre interface on your TV!

It seems odd that smartphones and 50" TVs could share the same interface. But that's the lesson of this year's CES for me.

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