By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 9:31 am
How many TV and movie services do I use? I’ve lost track. Depending on what I’m watching and which device I’m using, I might get my content from Comcast, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or one of a bunch of other services. I’m not complaining. But what I’d really like is to be able to turn on any gadget I own that can display video and watch everything that’s available anywhere.
Enter an upcoming TV-distribution platform created by MobiTV. The company is best known for its eponymous apps for watching TV on phones (available for the iPhone and many other handsets), but its real big business is providing private-labeled services for large companies–for instance, it powers Sprint’s Sprint TV. And it’s readying a service it plans to sell to cable-TV providers that will let consumers get one TV service that follows them from device to device. It gave me a demo of a rough draft of the technology last week at the CTIA Enterprise and Applications show in San Francisco.
If your cable company offered a version of MobiTV’s service, you’d get an IP set-top box for your HDTV. You could start watching a show on it, then press pause and pick up where you’d just left off on your smartphone, tablet, or PC. DVR-like features that record to the cloud rather than to a local hard disk are also included, permitting you to record a show on one device, then watch it another.
The technology will work for both live and on-demand programming; MobiTV plans to support every major platform, and it will let multiple people who share one TV (such as family members) maintain separate profiles which travel with them from device to device. (It demoed its creation to me on an HDTV and a Samsung Galaxy Tab Android tablet.) It’s all rather reminiscent of a Slingbox–but with no box required.
The idea is certainly appealing, and MobiTV’s technology looks cool. The big question mark is the content: The companies who own TV programs and movies will need to sign off on any service that makes them available everywhere. I suspect it’s going to be years until every single show on every single major and minor cable channel is available via any service of this type. But even getting a subset of popular programming this way could be nifty.
MobiTV says that this service should reach consumers by the middle of 2011; it isn’t yet saying which TV companies it’s working with.