Just before Christmas, I was at a friend’s house. He has a 9-year-old daughter who has the new Wii — a device very relevant to the topic of Web TV. For those of you who did not risk being trampled to get one of these things before Christmas, here’s what it is:
It’s a kind of holographic video-game experience. You hold a small remote in your hand. The instructions remind you to keep the wrist band fastened so you don’t fling it at your HD-TV and dent the screen. Then, the movements of your arm are mirrored by the avatar on the screen. You swing your arm back and forward, releasing a button and a bowling ball goes flying down the lane. Pretty neat. My 9-year-old friend wiped the floor with me in bowling.
Bowling was fun. But here’s what was absolutely coolest about the Wii– its navigational interface. The remote actually seems to have weight and tension– the kind you would feel manipulating a mouse with a wheel. It does this by emitting small vibrations. Surfing, therefore, is an enjoyable, tactile experience. You point the thing at the screen and it presents you with a cursor, allowing you to surf to weather and news. My little friend was able to completely customize her avatar and her dad’s. Think about it. Ever been frustrated with the little rubbery buttons on your TV remote? Can’t even surf the “Guide” without wanting to tear your hair out? That’s what I’m talking about.
Which brings me to the Business Week article today. It discusses the Web TV efforts by companies on display at CES. The article spends an innordinate amount of time on the idea of video on demand. Is it possible? When? How? Where? At what cost? The handwringing overshadows more important basics– and frankly the real reason I would love Web TV even without video on demand.
Here’s what I and a lot of consumers would simply like to do: I would like to be able to search for shows in the future. Far in the future. Maybe even 6 months in the future through a search interface. I’d like to be able to do this by title and by keywords such as “shows that have dragons.” Then, I’d like to be able to record the shows that I find. No on-demand necessary. When I’m considering watching a show, I’d like more information (always available on the network website) about the episode. The Guide doesn’t cut it with blurbs like, “The Law and Order detectives track a killer.” I’d like to be able to search for that name or person a show reminds me of by opening a separate Google window. And, in the name of all that is holy, I like to be able to reach IMDB from my TV.
Give me a killer remote like the Wii, a simplified browser, and some device to key-in words (not write my novel, just a few words), and I’ll be a happy camper for quite a while as everyone tries to figure out on-demand video.