Still talking about convergence

It’s been about a decade since I first heard talk of the convergence of the TV and web experience. In that time talk of Interactive TV has come and gone. Walled gardens were villified needlessly — the walls kept out enough light to let anything significant grow. Mobile video burst on the scene only to gain virtually no traction. It took YouTube on the iPhone to get people watching.

The buzz around convergence continues on. It’s quieter these days, but it’s still spoken of by pundits as inevitiable. So then why hasn’t it happened? The New York Times revisited the issue this week — most likely because all the articles about the DTV transition had to be shelved.

I’m no oracle. I got interactive television all wrong back in a 2001 cover story for DV Magazine. But I have been right on convergence. I never imagined wanting to check my email on the big screen with the family gathered around. As Web 2.0 technologies take hold, the convergence of the internet and television looks even more remote. What teenager is going to update her Facebook profile in the living room?

The fact is the PlayStation and Xbox have already brought the internet to my TV. I don’t know anyone who uses those boxes to surf the net. Sony has apparently learned from this. Quoted from the Times article:

“Sony’s stance is that consumers don’t want an Internet-like experience with their TVs, and we’re really not focused on bringing anything other than Internet video or widgets to our sets right now,” said Greg Belloni, a spokesman for Sony. Widgets is an industry term for narrow channels of Internet programming like YouTube.

Yet pundits continue to declare, “This time it’s for real. Really. I mean it.” Like everything else, TVs will connect to the internet, but it will be a managed experience, and it won’t be browser-based. Weather, sports, and financial information will be available on the TV. Maybe Hulu and YouTube can be visited. But the rest of the browsing experience will be done elsewhere — where the screen is 12 inches not 12 feet away. I open my bills in my office at my desk. I don’t project them onto the wall for the whole family to watch.

The convergence ship has sailed. We can browse anywhere — with our iPhones, BlackBerrys, and other devices —  so who’s going to want to learn another remote?

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