A relatively silent shot was fired the first week of December which, though it was not at first heard around the world, will eventually change the way all media are distributed. Sound provocative enough?
I‘m talking about Joost rolling out its iPhone application. This changes everything.
You might think I’m going to on and on about how mobile video is eventually the future, blah, blah, blah, but I’m not. Because it’s not. Mobile video will be a very nice complement to the TV and the PC. It will remain the third screen for as long as you can imagine. This post is not about the future of mobile video.
Instead, I’m talking about what I have been calling the “many devices, many services” model of media consumption in many of the speeches I give. This model follows nicely in line after the “one device, one service” model, which is best embodied in the iPod/iTunes or Kindle/Amazon combinations. This is a fine model, usually one that a new technology category will start with. But that model is quickly followed by a “one device, many services” model. This is the case with the Sony eReader, which, unlike the Amazon Kindle, has published an open development platform which allows any bookseller in the world to sell books into the eReader ecosystem. One device + many services.
Before we move into the “many devices, many services” model, a quick interim step called the “many devices, one service” model flourishes briefly. This is best exemplified by the Netflix on LG, Xbox, Samsung, TiVo, and so on model. I love this model and have written about it copiously.
But what we will see next is what Joost has done by exploiting the iPhone’s application development environment. It has volunteered itself as a service on the iPhone, without Apple ‘s express permission. In other words, in the “many devices, many services” model, devices are built with open platforms that allow any (ergo: many) services to spontaneously connect, without doing a biz-dev deal.
“Many devices, many services” is the future of video. And it requires the use of an open platform and open protocols. Joost, which got its start as a P2P video delivery mechanism, has since opened itself to wider consumption by going straight IP. Once it speaks IP, Joost can easily be ported to any IP device, including the iPhone. Including the T-Mobile G1. And so on. It has been so successful on the iPhone so far that it’s regularly in the top 10 free applications on the iPhone App Store (see pic, today it’s #5, yesterday #2, it see-saws).
All we need now is a (commercially-viable) open development platform for the TV set-top box. We already see a rabid community of Apple TV hackers who are writing their own code to create an open platform out of the walled garden Apple built. (I’ll write more on that later in the month because I’m trying it out myself.) And Comcast and Cox and Verizon will take years before they consider an open platform — they’d rather charge you for everything you want to do, even if they only enable you to do it badly, which is the case with things like whole-home DVR.
So who is going to bring an open development platform to the TV in a commercially viable way? My money’s on Roku in the short run. Who else has the guts (or the financial imperative) to do this? One backdoor might be to create a TV set top that is truly DLNA compliant. Then people could create PC applications that feed DLNA content to the set top. I’ll keep my eyes on this for you.
In the meantime: Joost iPhone users. Are you using the app? Does it work as advertised? Satisfied? If not, this could slow down the proof of concent the “many devices, many services” model needs, so I hope not. Let me know.