It’s time to look back on the year that was, and perhaps speculate a bit into 2008. Overall, 2007 was evolutionary in the consumer electronics space… More folks upgraded to digital HD televisions, embraced DVRs, and downloaded content (legally or otherwise). There wasn’t much new in the way of technology or trends that really moved me.
The only game changing hardware has been the iPhone. Apple’s success proves there’s a market for thoughtfully designed convergence devices. They’ve also proved smart phones need not be limited to the business and geek crowds – the mainstream is willing to partake (despite the cost). Apple has also done a nice job educating the market as to what more advanced handsets offer — good for all players. Once they fully commit to the Apple TV platform, I expect similar success (for them and that segment) next year.
As far as game changing trends, some the major labels (EMI, Warner) have started to line up behind DRM-free music — perhaps to address the cries of their (former and potential) customers, perhaps to stop the bleeding. Probably both. I expect we’ll see more of this next year… in audio. Video is a different sort of animal and that model won’t work. However, Hulu has also broken new ground – by bringing together many studios in one place to offer free-with-commercial-advertisement cross-browser web streaming of both current and classic (not always in the good sense) television shows. We’ll see both of these trends continue in 2008, as the studios and networks more fully embrace the digital marketplace. To protect and monetize their assets.
Unfortunately, 2007 brought no clarity to the next-gen high definition optical disk battle. For a few months, it appeared Blu-ray might be taking a commanding lead. However, the HD DVD camp bought relationships with two additional studios (to the tune of $150 million) and sharply discounted hardware pricing. So I’m back to my original theory that both formats will coexist indefinitely – studios intent on maximizing their earning potential will ultimately produce titles in both formats. And the slow adoption of players will continue until they do.
Speaking of Sling Media, in 2007 we launched SlingPlayer Mobile for Palm OS, stand-alone SlingPlayer Mobile for Symbian OS, and redesigned SlingPlayer for Mac software clients. In hardware, we introduced a new pair of SlingLink powerline networking accessories and the Slingbox SOLO, our first unit with integrated component connectivity. We also helped DirecTV stream NFL games, partnered with Europe’s largest cable provider, and were acquired by EchoStar.
No ZNF year-end wrap would be complete without revisiting some of the more meaningful TiVo developments. 2007 saw the introduction of a relatively affordable retail HD DVR. Though CableCARD confusion and SDV concerns remain, while satellite and cable companies continue to offer attractive DVR pricing and are closing the user experience gap. Which is why Comcast’s recently launched TiVo service (in New England) is particularly significant. Expect additional Comcast regions to come online next year, as well as select Cox households. Internationally, Mexico City has seen sales of Series2 TiVo units via Cablevision, Canadian retail outlets are now also offering Series2 hardware, and Seven intends to introduce TiVo hardware in Australia next year. Still in play: The TiVo v. EchoStar patent trial. As a TiVo customer, I’ve enjoyed the new (though slow) HD TiVoToGo and Multi-room Viewing, plus several 99 cent Amazon Unbox on TiVo (SD) video rentals.