Streaming Video: Predictions for 2012
As 2011 draws to a close, it looks like we’re in for another exciting year on the streaming video front. So without further adieu, here are some predictions for the coming year:
PayTV on Connected Devices
Expect to see a lot more payTV content available via streaming apps like HBO GO and Comcast’s xfinity, and those apps moving to more connected devices. Comcast has already announced plans to bring its xfinity app to new devices, starting with the Xbox 360. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Roku is on the short list, too.
Live TV on Connected Devices
Boxee is releasing a live TV dongle in January, which allows you to connect an antenna and watch live, local broadcast TV through your Boxee — perfect for cord-cutters who don’t mind dealing with the antenna part. If you’re a payTV subscriber, Boxee and Google TV will also be getting the SlingPlayer app sometime in the early part of 2012, which works with a Slingbox (purchased separately) to stream content from your payTV set-top to connected devices — so you can watch your favorite shows or live sports from another room, or even halfway across the globe. Of course, the hullaballoo around DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) inside payTV provider gateways will do the same thing…
Lots of new updates to the Xbox
In addition to getting payTV apps like xfinity, we expect to see some other interesting developments on the Xbox front. Such as? Watch for the Xbox Playful Learning initiative sometime soon, with special episodes from studios like Disney and National Geographic that allow viewers to interact with the content using the Kinect camera. We’ve also been hearing a lot about a next-generation Kinect, which is rumored to be able to analyze head movement, detect emotions and read lips (I’ll believe that one when I see it.) We’ll look for it at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show.
A new Apple TV?
The rumor mill is alive with buzz about an Apple-built TV to be released in late 2012. According to Steve Jobs’ biography, he claimed to have “cracked the code” for building an integrated television set with “the simplest user interface you could imagine.” Many analysts expect to see Apple’s Siri virtual assistant as an integral part of the TV, allowing you to use your voice to control the TV instead of the remote. (Of course, this is already a feature on Xbox Connect, and will be built into LG’s “Magic Remote” next year, too.) If we do see a TV set from Apple this year, one thing is for certain: it’s going to be pricey.
Google TV Takes Over?
Here’s something interesting, uttered by Google honcho Eric Schmidt earlier this month: “By the summer of 2012, the majority of the televisions you see in stores will have Google TV embedded in it.” This sounds extremely optimistic, given the rough first year Google TV has had. But, it’s not totally out of the question given the list of new Google TV hardware partners for 2012: Samsung, Vizio, LG, Toshiba and Sharp. If these manufacturers put Google’s smart TV platform on their devices instead of continuing to develop their own, Schmidt’s prediction might not be so far off base after all. Our burning question: By “Google TV embedded in it,” does he mean a GoogleTV clickable app, or does he mean GoogleTV “underneath,” as in OS/middleware?
More on HTML5 and MPEG DASH
We’ve seen a lot of hype, we mean buzz, about HTML5 and streaming video this year, and it looks like that’s only going to continue through 2012. At this point, most websites are still using Flash video because there aren’t any accepted standards for the <video> tag in HTML5. Companies like Netflix, Microsoft and Apple are promoting MPEG DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) as a standard to be used with HTML5, which could resolve many of the issues including adaptive streaming and Digital Rights Management (DRM), and we’ll probably see that continue to gain traction in 2012. However, there are a number of issues that MPEG DASH doesn’t resolve (like the need for a standard video codec). So, allow us to join the chorus of people pointing out that there’s still quite a bit of work to be done before HTML5 is ready for primetime. But it won’t be a shocker if we start seeing more HTML5-only interfaces on our devices in the lab, which is already the case with Netflix on the PlayStation 3.
And on the services front…
It’s been a triumphant year for Amazon Instant Video, and 2012 could easily bring more of the same — or not. The streaming video package included with the $79 annual Amazon Prime memberships includes much of the same content as Netflix streaming now, and many people cite this as a reason for dropping Netflix. However, Amazon could just as easily fall from grace. For example, imagine the outrage if they decided to separate their streaming service from the Amazon Prime membership! (We harrumph in advance.)
As for Hulu, will we see it end up on the auction block again in 2012? We’ll keep an eye on it for you. That, and everything else we can squeeze into the lab…