WTF is... Project Canvas?
A good thing, we say
The BBC Trust announced on Friday that it had approved Project Canvas, the internet-connected TV specification that’s backed by the BBC along with the other public service broadcasters, plus telcos Talk Talk and BT, and transmitter overseer Arqiva.
The Project Canvas partners
The decision follows months of debating and consultation, with some other broadcasters claiming that the BBC has no business being involved in setting up such ventures, and presumably hoping to kill it off – in much the same way that Project Kangaroo was halted, before being sold off to Arqiva as the basis of its SeeSaw online video site.
Amidst all the complaints and reports about whether or not enough of the specification was discussed in advance, what’s not been talked about so much is what the home user can expect, and when.
Connected TVs are nothing new – we looked at them earlier this year - and the latest crop of Freeview HD-integrated TV sets has even more to offer in that regard. The Digital Television Group (DTG) is also working on a specification for connected TVs that will be incorporated in the next version of the ‘D Book’, which sets out the requirements for UK free-to-air equipment, building on the requirements for an Ethernet connection already included in Freesat and Freeview HD kit.
So what does Project Canvas bring to the table that you won’t already be able to get by choosing a Panasonic, Sony or Samsung set that gives you access to the LoveFilm online rental system? And why have some people been so opposed to it?
Re: On Friday...
Reg Hardware != Andrew Orlowski
Andrew has his own views on Canvas. Reg Hardware's editorial stance is that it's better to have the BBC sticking its oar in - as are plenty of others - but getting a workable, open platform than have umpteen vendors separately trying to build some of it for their own products.
Personally, I want iPlayer and all the other free-to-air catch-up services on my Sony TV, and Canvas looks to be the best way of getting it.
The trouble with this is that the manufacturers of freeview boxes, such as Humax, are already incapable of delivering quality at the level of complexity you get these days.
Seriously, put your hand up if you have some kind of dedicated Freeview box., with or without DVR functionality. Now keep your hand up if it has never crashed in normal use.
Yeah, about three of you then.
TV manufacturers GUIs all suck
As someone who has used multiple freeview TVs and now has a panasonic PVR, can I state that these people should not be allowed to design their own GUIs. They may think they can add value by doing their own interface, but they all suck, really. With their inconsistent buttons in different screens, their confirmation dialogs -they must have hired the MS windows mobile team to design these nightmares.
The iPlayer app for the Wii, it is not only what an online TV experience should be, it puts every other UI in the living room to shame. No need for a controller with 50 buttons, just something even a small child can wave at the screen.
Compared to Freeview and other solutions
Very rarely would I write this but Andrew Orlowski may be right on this topic. I don't expect FSF to be happy. Hence the Reg tombstone!
iPlayer is already available on Sony Blu-ray players (and very nice too). Eric Huggers also mentioned it was coming to Sony and Samsung TVs: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2010/03/erik_huggers_at_the_guardian_c.html
Samsung is already promoting heavily although I don't think it has appeared yet, Sony seem to be in stealth mode and haven't announced or promoted.
Canvas on a Sony TV - I really wouldn't hold my breath!
If Canvas was just specifications for online services it might have a chance outside the IP and broadcast connected PVR niche it is aiming for but Sony, Samsung, LG and even Panasonic are unlikely in my view hand the complete UI of the devices they market with their brands on them to the Canvas JV.
Regarding comparisons to Freeview which is just some additional local signaling on global standards and a completely common product can be sold across Europe (and much of the rest of the world too) with only a different plug and some settings on a per country basis is not a realistic base for whether it will be adopted.
Canvas was also developed avoiding the DTG and providing minimal information while using them as cover for secrecy.
Freesat which is a bigger divergence and an attempt at greater control has had products from Sony and LG last year but this year there is only Panasonic remaining and they are focusing more of Freeview HD.
What Canvas is really about is BBC envy of Sky's control over its platform and ability to update software across all devices. BBC want to get this without spending the money on buying these devices. They are missing the very features that has made Freeview successful such as the ability to embed it into all TVs at a reasonable cost.
The thing is, the ISPs screamed blue murder after a couple of months of iPlayer, demanding that the BBC pay them money for the bandwidth and suggesting that the interwebs were on the verge of grinding to a halt due to this additional traffic. That's just from a web-based system - surely the additional overhead of a fully at-your-screen service is relying on a broadband infrastructure that is nowhere to be found yet, not even on any 'map' of future development.