Web TV

I’m back from several months of surfing in darkest Africa and have returned an older, wiser Webhead.

In the last year the Web has grown exponentially. It has taken some of the questions I posed in my first few articles and made them reality. (I was jazzed about Real Audio 1.0!) It has also exposed some of the ideas that I might have held in high esteem at that time to be downright silly.

One of the biggest concerns that I had as an Internet retailer was how to lure customers into my store. The prevailing idea a few months ago was that “content was king”. Although this is still one of the main tenets of Web retail, it is no longer a race to put up the biggest site with the most bells and whistles. The focus has shifted–the stores now try to just sell product. If you need help in another area, such as adding content, you look for help. The Web has begun to crystallize. Where there were sites that
did it all a year ago, now we have started to see that Web sites can specialize in what they do best.

Naturally, this specialization only helps all of us surfers.

One of the best examples of this is the advent of Web-TV. For $330 for the unit & remote, and another $80 for the wireless keyboard you get a Web ready television. For each terminal, you will get up to six email addresses. This will do two things. First, it will open the market up even more–88% of this country still isn’t online. Second, it will take some of the mystery out of the Internet. After all, we won’t have to deal with a nasty old computer anymore; it’s just our old friend the TV! This will let the couch potatoes of the world do what they do best–participate without much
effort. And this is why WEB-TV is the next big thing.

Participation is the main thing, regardless of what the techie elite might say. Bringing information to the masses is the goal of the Internet anyway–and this is the idea behind Web-TV.

It will bring connection only to the Web, not the entire Internet. This means Usenet and its 17,000 ongoing conversations won’t be available to the Web-TV user. But with the estimated 60 million Web pages out there–let’s face it–there’s a lot to look at!

One of the main complaints against using a TV to view the Web is the lack of
interactivity. Even now, much of the Web is text based. Will this text be enough to bring users back? I think so. Wen Liao, senior analyst at Jupiter Communications in New York, isn’t so sure. “The Internet is great for information, and you can use it to find out a lot of things. But you’re going to be doing it (surfing) from a TV set, which is an entertainment device–not an information device.” Wen is banking on the fact that consumers will want the Web-TV to be like regular TV, just because it comes
from the same TV set. I think that the important phrase in Web TV is WEB, not TV. The connectivity and the participation are important, not so much the bandwidth or the browser.

Another reason I think that Web TV is a winner is the advent of Marimba. Marimba is a company formed by four members of Sun Microsystem’s Java Team. Headed by (remember this name) Kim Polese, Marimba pledges to: “Focus on providing developers with the tools they need to develop, deploy and maintain robust network-managed applications, multimedia experiences and dynamic information systems within enterprises and across the Internet.”

Marimba’s product is called Castanet. Using Castanet, developers can now build and easily deploy full-featured, media-rich applications over the Internet that are unrestrained by platform dependency, limited bandwidth or the traditional HTML browser framework. Translation–Castanet is a good way to use Java to bring the much ballyhooed interactive component to the Web and to Web-TV users. Users will browse by switching Castanet channels. If you’re familiar with IRC chat lines, then you have an idea of how Castanet works. On the user’s desktop, the Castanet Tuner is used to ‘tune in’ to your area of interest. Castanet channels will include a children’s storybook, updated nightly, an expense report application, a news feed customized for the user, or an interactive game incorporating global participation. It doesn’t use HTML to read Web pages. Castanet uses ADP or Application Distribution Protocol to
distribute itself over the Web. This patented process runs in the background and takes up very little bandwidth. It also re-uses components.

So if you download a game that is 2 megs, the next object you download may use some parts that you’ve already got. Rather than having to wait and download these again, Castanet is smart enough to grab just the pieces that you need. It can use what you already have to run the new application. This will save our Web-TV buddies on download time and keep them happy.

So there you have it…If you don’t believe in Web-TV yet, you will. With the gains made in technology and Marimba’s new Castanet tools, I think we will see a whole new version of the old Web surfer out there. It’s about time.

For more info:

or call 1-800-GOWEBTV
or go to: http://www.marimba.com

Brian Harniman (harnie@hotmail.com)

Leave a Reply