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NewTeeVee Live 2009: Looking Back, Looking Forward

An event is taking place in San Francisco today that sets the stage for ongoing discussions in the run-up to next week's Streaming Media West 2009 and the complementary Online Video Platforms summit.

"We like to use NewTeeVee Live to try to see where the industry is going over the next 12-18 months," said Om Malik, founder of the GigaOm Network (which owns NewTeeVee), in the introduction to the one-day event.

"To do so, though, let's take a look back," added Chris Albrecht, co-editor NewTeeVee, referring specifically to the three years the site has been in existence. "The first year was about YouTube, last year was about the re-emergence of traditional network and content owners scaling up their dominance, while this year is about access—further integrating media into our lives—including the Boxee box, which news is just breaking on today."

Albrecht's comments about Boxee were further emphasized in a session called the Next Big Thing: 10 minutes each for 10 companies to talk about what they're doing in the video space, plus a prediction for the future.

"The first dedicated Boxee box (device) will be coming in 2010," said Avner Ronen, CEO and co-founder of Boxee. "At an event in Brooklyn on December 7, we'll show mock-ups and hopefully announce who we're working with on this first Boxee box. We're also in discussion with several device manufacturer partners, and we've updated our alpha to a more robust beta which has a whole new user experience, including social interaction. By no means a finished product, but we're moving that direction."

The Boxee beta unveiling will be held at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on December 7 at 7 p.m. In the meantime, Ronen made his prediction for the future.

"This may be the year of TV Everywhere, but the future is Internet Everywhere," said Ronen. "While content companies have traditionally been doing content for a single screen, the right way to do this is to have content on the living room screen (biggest screen available) and supplemental content on the mobile and laptop.

"I'm the guy stuck in the long slog," said Erik Flanagan, EVP of digital media for MTVN Entertainment Group in a later session where he discussed Comedy Central, "of all the years between where we are and where Avner [Ronen] is saying we're going."

Besides Boxee, the other five companies represented in the first half of the Next Big Thing session were Canesta, Elemental Technologies, FreeWheel, and Inlet Technologies.

Elemental's CEO, Sam Blackman, announced publicly what Streaming Media reported earlier today, that the Elemental Server is now shipping.

"GPUs are now more powerful and more programmable,"said Blackman, noting that the Tesla NVIDIA card has 240 processors on board versus 4 processors on a CPU-based quad-core server. This means that we're in a position to take advantage of massive parallelism for video transcoding, up to 950 peak GLFOPS (gigaflops)."

Blackman also introduced partners (Adobe, Microsoft, NVIDIA) and a list of initial customers, including Brightcove, Citrix, and Highwinds, as well as In-Q-Tel, a strategic investment form that works with the U.S. intelligence community.

"Unlike other forms of media, the internet will not destroy pay TV business models," said Blackman, using the example of his brother who watched video through college on a laptop, but upon graduation bought an HDTV flat panel. "What he would be willing to pay for is content available on these two devices, plus his mobile device."

Doug Knopper, co-founder and co-cEO, FreeWheel, added a slightly different perspective.

"No matter how we try to limit content, the road to consumer choice is going to be littered with the bones of those who try to restrict the content," said Knopper. "It's like fighting last year's war: Technology continues to advance, much the same way that a battle plan based around extending the Great Wall of China is only effective until the enemy creates an airplane to fly over it."

Knopper's FreeWheel, which provides ad management for a variety of content owners—from MLB to Warner—sees consumer choice coming at the expense of the traditional advertising models.

"The winners will be two-fold," said Knopper, "both those who create compelling content, including interactivity, and those who build the ecosystems and value chains around it. As such, we're moving beyond TV Everywhere to Content Anywhere.

Matt Smith, senior director of systems architecture for Inlet Technologies, used his prediction to talk about the difference between the small screen (iPhone and mobile device) and the desktop.

"The paramount requirement is the highest-quality experience on the particular device, but we see 2010 as the year of more, " said Smith. "To quote the Sting song, the content cry is 'Free, free, set them free . . . ' as broadcasters give the consumer multiple options, including more stats, more camera angles and interactivity on these mobile devices."

Inlet, as noted in a previous article, is working with NBC Universal Sports to encode the content for the Vancouver Olympics, pushing massive automation and scale for all of NBCU Sport's content.

James Spare, President and CEO, Canesta, rounded out the group's first half.

"We think the electronic program guide (EPG) will need to be fixed in order to deal with the plethora of content out there," said Spare.

Canesta has 40 granted patents covering 3D image sensing in standard SMOS, complex optical technoogies and key applications for 3D input (gesture control or virtual keyboards) and Spare used his time on stage to show an EPG demo where the TV watches the viewer's gestures to easily flow through the EPG to particular channels.

"Tracking gestures in real-time, in a 3D space, allows consumers to choose their content easily," said Spare,"without having to learn multiple remotes. Hitachi has chosen this technology to power soon-to-be-released gesture-enabled televisions."

Spare's comment about EPGs and remotes tie nicely with a set of comments made by Mark Whitten, general manager of Microsoft's Xbox LIVE.

Whitten demonstrated the Sky Xbox player, which is powered by ioko and which we previewed during IBC and which launched was last week in the UK.

"I think our consumers have a three-position couch," said Whitten, morphing the three-screen model to fit the Xbox's game console dominance in the living room." The first position is sitting back to be entertained, the second is sit up to deal with computer aspects on the screen (Facebook, etc) and the third position is sit forward for the game or gaming."

"For a sit-forward position, when I'm engrossed in the game," said Whitten, "I don't want to know from my Twitter feed that you've just gone to get a double latte. We see people in our betas use the dashboard first, for the sit up position, and then choose what to do next."

The dashboard and Twitter are references to a November 17 launch of Facebook content plus Twitter, last.fm and a re-designed Zune Video Marketplace.

"One of the things holding back the living room from having communities rather than audiences," said Whitten, "is the fact that 14 different remotes are required to do 14 different things. The interface we use—the game player—is something we've used and will continue to use due to its simplicity. But with Project Natal (a controller-free gaming environment), we're also looking at ways to remove barriers for a non-gamer, so that it's intuitive for anyone who wants to become part of the Xbox community, in all its forms."

Whitten will keynote the Streaming Media West show the the day after the launch, November 18, in San Jose, California.

[You can find more on NewTeeVee Live at Tim Siglin's Bit O' Tech blog.]

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