Nokia's Web TV box and the IBC conference
Fancy kit, dancing women and the vices of Amsterdam
We were invited by Nokia to preview its new "media terminal" at the IBC show in Amsterdam at the weekend.
The event proved very interesting.
First, the Nokia Media Terminal. Not a sexy name, admittedly, but then the whole idea is to use the mobile phone model - sell it to operators, who then hugely discount it to consumers to get them to sign up. As mentioned on Friday, the box is almost totally open source - a very interesting and (if you think about it) necessary approach if the box is to achieve broad acceptance, what with X-box, OnDigital etc etc all telling everyone how great they are.
What has Nokia done? Basically, piled everything into one box. The huge array of ports on the bloody thing mean that it will communicate with your kettle if the kettle is in a chatty mood. But then this will be a game of marketing. It is incorporating games because it has to, and it will produce a developer's toolkit early next year to try to get games developers interested. It has come up with a slick design for the box - always a good idea. It has covered just about every angle because it wants to become the industry standard. Sold properly, mum and dad will get it because it has "everything for the whole family".
As one hack pointed out to the box's product marketing manager - it's basically just a sexy PC. After some aimless PR nonsense, Romulo Pinheiro hit upon the right answer: "Yes, it is. But your average consumer is scared by the idea of the PC. This will give them everything they want and do it through the TV." Good answer Romulo.
The open-source thing is the saviour. No hassles, no crazed accusations (the box is also jointly developed by Intel) and the obvious security/usability queries are answered by saying that the open source community will correct problems themselves. It also promises to work with just about every protocol you've ever heard of. We could go on and on, but then if you were interested, you'd call Nokia direct, so we'll cut it there. Aside from the fact that it should be available Q2 next year and that the answer to Tony's queries about memory are given in brackets here (32-64Mb SDRAM, 4Mb SDRAM for video/system memory, 1+1Mb Flash memory for boot loader).
So what of IBC2000? Well, this really is a class conference. Two, no, three main differences between this and every other show.
- Fewer dolly birds. A shame, admittedly, but then that's not as if there aren't a lot of attractive women - they're just not displayed as flagrantly.
- (A tie-in with number one.) Because there aren't so many dollies, they are replaced with - get this - people that actually really know about their product. It may seem revolutionary for a show to have people that know what they're talking about, but that's what happens.
- It is bloody enormous and the effort put into stands is simply staggering. We were actually deeply impressed with some people's stands, not only the look of it but also the slickness of the exhibitions. Having said that, why BT felt the need to hire a four-stand area to install what was little more than a reception desk (complete with grumpy, frustrating secretaries) is beyond us. Oh, and you have never seen as many TV screens in your entire life.
A few highlights: nubile girls dancing for a motion-capture stall; an American with a lisp giving a run through of his product while no one (and we mean no one) was anywhere near; Microsoft boring the pants off people by running through its Web TV thing at a horrifyingly slow pace (basically, it has all the usual video controls); magician Zap - who was on Nokia's stall and was quite simply amazing; others.
What of Amsterdam? Still as beautiful as ever. As are the ladies behind glass doors (although interestingly, during the day, they are replaced by far older and less firm examples - a ruse to awaken passion in the middle-aged, lonely man). A lot of young people seemed very tired even though they were drinking lots of coffee and the nightlife was, as ever, unique. We just managed to get our flight. ®