Those who missed out on surround sound with the earliest Freeview HD boxes will be pleased to know that transcoding to AC3 (Dolby Digital) is also mandated by the HbbTV specification.
It’s worth noting that it’s possible for a single receiver to support both MHEG 5 and HbbTV, as will be the case for the next generation of Freesat boxes, for example.
HbbTV services from among the many rolled out on the Continent
So, rather than being revolutionary, HbbTV is a pulling together of existing standards to create a platform designed to be straightforward to implement, and to enable easy development of applications.
Compared to YouView
So, how does HbbTV compare to YouView? YouView is broader in scope, in that it’s a complete system with a consistent front end and a centralised EPG. It's intended to be built into branded boxes.
That has caused friction among UK content providers, some of whom feel they, not a consortium, should be free to define the UI that fronts their IPTV services.
As simply a building block, HbbTV makes that possible. There’s no central authority co-ordinating all the different things that individual channels do, to enforce a unified experience. It’s more like the way that both ITV and the BBC make their catch-up services available through Freesat’s red button: they use the same technology, but look different.
Whatever the final YouView UI looks like, it'll be a consortium-controlled experience
There’s another key difference too: HbbTV is already out there and in products you can buy now. Many broadcasters already have HbbTV applications deployed on both satellite and terrestrial services, particularly in Germany, where ARD, ZDF, RTL and even QVC have services, together with Franco-German arts channel Arte.
With other countries in Europe also deploying HbbTV, it’s likely to end up costing relatively little to include in sets as a matter of course.
For the UK, with YouView already delayed and initially targeting terrestrial users, using HbbTV means Freesat won’t be left behind when it comes to supporting the extra online features that all the major TV platforms will be pushing in their bid to keep viewers in front of the telly. ®
This is nothing new
So - having looked after the running of Ceefax several years ago, I know that it was indeed a very popular system....I bemoaned the Interactive service, because people wanted bigger better content; and quite frankly, there was never enough bandwidth to offer anything other than a 'basic information' service. A lot of services that were on Ceefax went off to bbc,co.uk; and the quickness of accessing information means that we probably don't miss the teletext services quite so much....
There was a real art of ASCII art that both teletext and ceefax offered; but what I really wanted to say was the delivering content to the TV / computer across the 'airways' is nothing new. Back in the heady days of 1984-1991 [I think], Ceefax used to offer download programmes for the BBC Micro computer - you needed a special teletext decoder for your BBC Micro, and these programs were not generally larger than about 10k in length [remember your average BBC Model B had 32k of RAM], and this process was clunky to watch [there was a status bar even - and your code was retransmitted every minute!!!]
PRINT CHR$(141);"I MISS CEEFAX"
PRINT CHR$(141);"I MISS CEEFAX"
So what are you asking for? If not the morons who build menus on DVDs, then the morons who produce the devices (see Panasonic and its adverts in its EPG)? Or if not the HbbTV consortium, how about the YouView consortium?
Face it, there are precious few people who can build a decent UI (for reasons that are quite frankly beyond me) and the ones who are good at it will probably have a good stab at getting the HbbTV experience as good as they can.