Suspect device: the consumer electronics landscape

The devices broadcasters should cater for and those they can forget.
Consumer devices, Courier, E-reader, IPad, IPod, Netbook, Smartphone, Video services, Analysis, Delivery & Transmission


The number of devices capable of playing high quality media content has ballooned in the past five years. The number of people who own more than one of these devices is also on the rise. But this ever-expanding choice is also breeding confusion. Digital Broadcast looks at the likely winners and losers in the device wars and the wider implications for the content industry.


Top of the pile in recent years and the most established in terms of prevalence and media usage by the public.

The fact these are carried everywhere by their owners makes them ideal for “snacking” media consumption.

The iPhone app model has been an overwhelming success creating a diverse range of content, elevating the producer’s of simple software apps to a new level of importance.

The challenge for media companies is finding a more direct route of distribution to handsets. Proprietary content stores and illegal downloading lead the way and the sluggish response from indignant media companies continues.

Smartphones are here to stay making the telco/content owner relationship more critical than ever.


The development of sub-$300 dollar laptops with little processing power but a decent 10-inch screen seemed like an ideal way for people to access and view content online. Data from DisplaySearch found a 72 percent jump in netbook revenues from 2008 to 2009 with sales hitting 33.3 million units. The netbook could do no wring and more and more manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon. All the research now points to a slowdown in this growth.

With many purchasing netbooks as a cheap laptop replacement now having done so, bigger budget buyers will be looking for something a little more powerful. Smartphones meanwhile have only gotten smarter offering many the wireless access and computing power that only a netbook could offer before.

This leaves the netbook’s biggest remaining advantage the portable, yet fulfilling 10-inch screens…cue the tablet.


So far the tablet market is very much in its infancy. The iPad has stolen the headlines and the Apple faithful signed up in their droves, even if the iPad didn’t fall very far from the iPod tree.

The company will no doubt address some of the issues that have arisen with the iPad’s first iteration with future updates.

Competition wise, we can expect Samsung to release an Android-based tablet later in the summer. The rumoured S-PAD will have a 7-inch screen, USB ports, WiFi and 3G. HP reportedly ditched its plans for a Windows 7 based tablet due to concerns over power consumption. The manufacturer (fresh from its $1.2 billion acquisition of Smartphone manufacturer Palm) now appears to be planning a new tablet strategy based on Palm’s webOS.

Expect all the usual consumer electronics suspects to get involved as well.

Tablets are very media friendly given their screen size and purported hardware specs. Just like Smartphones however, digital distribution (or lack of) could stymie any benefits for the content industry.

Connected TVs

Various studies have found that TV viewers are increasingly browsing the internet on portable devices while they watch TV. Interest in the ability to flick between linear broadcast channels and the internet (particularly email, social networking and other communication tools) has grown hugely in recent years.

Partially in response to this, the manufacturers have begun increasing the number of connected TVs that are available on the market.

ABI Research estimates that 19 percent of TVs sold this year will have an Ethernet connection with this number increasing to 46 percent in 2013.

The recent play by Google, Sony, Intel and Logitech could see that figure increase dramatically.

“New features will include media guides, web browsing, and more tightly integrated social and information-based datasets,” says Michael Inouye, analyst, ABI Research.

“TV makers no longer want to build ‘dumb screens’,” says Inouye. “Rather than simply selling boxes, TV manufacturers themselves could try to secure part of the revenue generated via the ads that their devices present to viewers.”

Broadcasters must consider the effect of viewers having the power of the internet on the same remote control and exploit the creative and commercial opportunities presented by sofa-bound web browsing.

Games consoles

Games console manufacturers have cleverly integrated the internet into their offerings in such a way that while it remains optional, it is practically impossible to function without the necessary updates – that are only available through the Xbox Live portal online. The same portal is also used to sell video and gaming content to users.

This model has become standard and is used by Microsoft’s rivals in the sector. Sony announced a boutique movie portal for its Playstation 3 platform. MUBI brings together content from a number of independent filmmakers and production houses as well as a space for content discovery and fans forums.

UK pay TV operator Sky TV offers access to its subscribers via Microsoft’s Xbox 360 adding extra value for its subscribers and dangling a carrot under the nose of those yet to join its growing ranks.

The Middle East has a huge gaming culture among its young population yet the entire medium remains almost entirely the domain of outside entities. When it comes to media plays hosted on the major consoles, there has been no local initiatives so far. Without doubt it represents a huge window of opportunity immediately.

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