By Scott Burnett
Director, Global Consumer Electronics
Ever since I graduated from college in 1981 and began my professional career by selling analog magnetic recording tape to movie studios and music companies, the promise of digital technology has been in the wind. That was the year of the IBM Personal Computer. Each technical advance since then–the CD, the DVD, laptops, mp3 players, interactive TV, smartphones, tablets—has helped enable a convergence of computing, communications and entertainment for the consumer.
Today, finally, the long-anticipated digital convergence is fundamentally in place. Thanks to innovations in cloud computing and mobility people have just about all the computing, communications and entertainment we want where and when we want it.
But it still isn’t easy to meld all of these capabilities together. Some possibilities are more difficult to fulfill than they should be. For instance, how many people can do something as seemingly simple as setting up a recording on their TV DVR when they’re not home using their smartphone?
What the world needs is a combination of technology for integrating the elements of the digital convergence with industry standards that make it easy to transfer and manage content and services, no matter where you are or what device you’re using.
Most people don’t think of IBM when they think of the digital consumer, but, in fact, behind the scenes, we’re becoming a player in the industry that provides the underlying technologies. Today, we’re announcing several business relationships that demonstrate both our technical capabilities and the philosophy with which we engage this market.
First off, we’re providing cloud computing services that make it possible for TP Vision, an Amsterdam-based joint venture between Philips and TPV, to deliver dependable and easily manageable content delivery services to millions of consumers in more than 30 countries in Europe as well as in Brazil and Argentina. In addition to standard TV, their offering, Philips Smart TV, provides two-way interaction and personalized content.
Analytics is going to play a major part in the future of digital content delivery. The data stored within the Philips Smart TV cloud will make it possible to recommend new TV watching experiences to individual customers based on their past selections or future desires. In addition, TP Vision will be able to target advertising at the device level to individuals, and its advertising partners can offer people special deals and discounts that are custom-designed for them. Welcome to the era of the market of one.
In a second engagement, we’re announcing a collaboration with Vodafone to combine their mobile technologies with our cloud computing to enable the remote management of “smart home” appliances and services. Machine–to-machine technology connects home appliances wirelessly to the Internet. Hitching it to a cloud computing platform like ours makes it convenient for people to use their smartphones for everything from monitoring home energy consumption to controlling security to turning on and off lights and appliances, to, yes, managing their digital video recorders.
Once again, analytics can play an important role in enriching the lives of consumers. Appliance manufacturers will be able to collect data from appliances that they can then use to improve product development and maintenance. They’ll be able to fashion service offerings custom-tailored to an individual—the market of one.
In the future, every digital device in the home could be connected to every other device—and to the Internet. The same goes for your car. Imagine creating a music playlist for the next holiday weekend that you can listen to continuously wherever you are via your laptop, your home theater, your tablet, your smartphone or in your car—and allowing friends in your social network to tune in and play your list just as effortlessly.
But there’s another crucial element of the digital convergence that will be necessary for our digital dreams to become realities. As companies within the information technology, communications and entertainment industries design their products and services, they must be heedful of the need to make the offerings compatible with one another. It’s essential to adopt technology standards that make it easy to combine devices and services the way children build tiny villages out of LEGO blocks.
By creating an open, non-proprietary ecosystem, the developers of digital services and content will be able to create applications once that can run on any device or network. It is an approach that will save a lot of money and time for companies and makes life easier for consumers, as well. Think of it as a social network for digital devices.
We’re making progress on the convergence of computing, communications and entertainment, but we still have a way to go to make it convenient for people to live rich and varied digital lives. The mantra for companies participating in this rapidly-changing marketplace should be simple: Do what’s best for the consumer. Live by the principles that give them the most choices and make their lives easiest. That’s IBM’s philosophy. It has been so since the company introduced the IBM PC in 1981, and we’re sticking with it.