This article is an advance look at one of the first two-screen iPad apps that is slated for release by TVI.COM this summer.
A two-screen app allows TV viewers to discover and control video using the mobile device screen and to play this video on the TV or mobile screen. Any iPad or iPhone app can be turned into a two-screen app by simply adding a free software library available from iLook Corp (www.ilook.tv). The iLook library enables mobile app users to easily switch video between the mobile device's screen and any TV-screen on the same local area network. The mobile app is used as a "second screen" for discovery and remote-control of video that plays on any screen. Video is transmitted from the app publisher's cloud directly to the TV-screen, without a set-top or a TV-based app. Direct access to millions of TVs through their own mobile app affords app publishers unprecedented control of their content and opens up monetization opportunities that were previously only available to traditional TV networks.
The TVI iPad app is a "virtual MSO". This means that it emulates a traditional TV service providers such as Comcast. However, because it uses the Internet instead of cable to deliver video, it is able to provide many additional services.
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|Traditional video path from CNN to the TV set.|
|A much simplified Internet-based path from CNN to the TV set.|
|The Screen button displays a list of available screens.|
The iLook Library also provides API functions for displaying landing pages (called SidePages) on the touchscreen that are triggered by associated TV commercials playing on the TV screen (more about this in a future article, "How to Make Your TV Commercials Interactive").
AirPlay and iLook are two similar two-screen systems for using a mobile device app as a combination electronic-program-guide/TV-remote. Interestingly, both systems also provide a simple way to broadcast TV programming directly from the cloud to a user's TV without the need for expensive set-top boxes and proprietary cable and satellite infrastructure. Perhaps less obviously, the resulting broadcasting path is relatively secure (with respect to digital rights management or DRM) because it is completely controlled by the broadcaster's cloud and the broadcaster's mobile app. The TV is just a "dumb screen".
What is AirPlay?
With AirPlay, a video can be selected on an iPhone or iPad touchscreen and played on a TV screen. The TV's HDMI input must be connected to an AppleTV media device (shown below).
|The AppleTV media player connects to any TV via the HDMI port.|
|The AirPlay button is touched to transfer video from the iPhone touchscreen to a TV screen.|
|The AirPlay menu enables selection of a destination screen.|
- Works beautifully with the YouTube app and the iTunes app on the iPhone and the iPad.
- Makes it very simple to find video by using the iPhone or iPad as an electronic program guide and remote and to play it on a TV screen.
Cons of AirPlay:
- Video only works with Apple apps (only YouTube and iTunes at this point). Does not work with Netflix and other non-Apple apps.
- Only works with the AppleTV media player. Unlikely to work with non Apple TV devices in the future (except possibly via expensive licensing arrangements).
- Power-hungry because the iPhone or iPad must be on for the duration of any video since the video is sent to the AppleTV media player (and the TV screen) through the mobile device.
- Non-Apple app publishers cannot use AirPlay for video in their own apps.
- Only one mobile device at a time can be used to control the video.
- Only one screen can be controlled by a mobile device.
- The Screen Select button is located on the video navigation control panel which means that you need to fist start the video before selecting the destination screen.
- Closed architecture makes it unusable (by app publishers) as an OTT TV broadcasting system.
What is iLook?
iLook is very similar to Airplay and is now available from iLook Corporation (ilookTV.com) in beta, by invitation only. Like with Airplay, a video can be selected on an iPhone or iPad touchscreen and played on a TV screen. iLook's advantage is its complete flexibility. It is designed to work with any Internet-ready TV and with any app that streams video. Any number of mobile devices can be used at the same time to control a single TV screen. And, a single mobile device can control many TVs, each playing a different video.
For example, a user launches the Netflix app on the iPhone. The app displays a "Screen" button on the nav-bar as shown below. Touching the Screen button displays a list of all Internet-ready TVs on the home network. The user selects Living Room. From that point on, all movies played through this app will play on the currently selected TV screen and the iPhone will be used as combination interactive program guide and remote.
|The iLook "Screen" button is typically located on the Nav Bar.|
|The iLook "Screens" menu enables selection of a destination screen.|
Pros of iLook
- Works with any app and with any Internet-ready TV.
- Does not use extra mobile device power while a video is playing on the TV screen.
- Available to app publishers for free (no license fees or royalties).
- No advertising is imposed on app publishers.
- Multiple mobile devices can control a single video.
- One mobile device can control multiple screens.
- iLook SDK (called the iLook Library) makes it simple for app publishers to make their apps iLook-ready (available through iLookTV.com).
- The Screens button can be located anywhere in the app. It is typically on the nav-bar. This means that a destination screen can be selected before playing a video.
- Open architecture makes it useable (by app publishers) as an OTT TV broadcasting system.
- Currently only available by invitation through iLook's beta program.
- Will not be widely available until Q2, 2012.
|Media players such as this Iomega 35045 ScreenPlay TV Link DX HD can be used to make any TV Internet-ready. A WiFi dongle is included.|
|AppleTV is a proprietary media player that only works with iTunes. WiFi is built-in.|
The best way to connect the TV to the Internet is via WiFi since the best TV locations in the house typically are not near the Internet cable. If your TV does not have built-in WiFi, then you can use a WiFi "dongle" that pugs into the TV's USB port (Sony UWABR100). Another viable alternative is to use a "power-line" Internet connection such as the NETGEAR XAVB5001 Powerline AV Ethernet Adapter Kit.
|The WiFi dongle is plugged into the TV's USB connector to wirelessly connect the TV to the home's local area network (LAN).|
|A simple Internet TV configuration with cinema sound.|
|Internet-connected TVs include many preloaded apps.|
|The Netflix TV app user interface.|
|A smart TV controlled by a dumb remote creates an unusable keyboard.|
- The user interface is completely inconsistent between TV manufacturers and even between different TVs from the same manufacturer. This means that the TV in the living room will not behave the same as the TV in the bedroom.
- It's difficult to read the small text on the screen without getting off the couch.
- The response of the user interface is very slow and tedious.
- App publishers such as Netflix need to create and support different versions of each app for every TV model from every manufacturer. Netflix employs hundreds of expensive programmers for just this purpose.
- The user interface is perfectly consistent between TVs, across manufacturers and models.
- Even the smallest text can be easily read without getting up from the couch because the user interface in in the user's hand.
- The response of the user interface is fast and enjoyable.
- App publishers only need to create one app (a mobile app) to be on all TVs.
|Searching for video with the two-screen user interface is simple because the keyboard is in the user's hand rather than on a distant TV screen.|
|A traditional interactive program guide lists available videos.|
Listing of video titles works fine for (short-head) movies and even for (long-tail) video searches. But is it effective for navigating rather than searching through special interest, affinity video?
The clue to the answer to this question is in the magazine industry. Bacon's publishes an annual, 3,100 page, "Magazine Directory" that in the year 2009 listed over 18,500 magazine titles in over 90 affinity categories. To indulge in any one of those 90 special interests, a consumer will typically read one or more of the 18,500 magazines. Incredibly, many magazines listed in the Bacon's directory are now being released as iPad apps. See for example the recently released Wired magazine app shown below.
|Wired magazine released as an iPad app.|
|Video is selected by touching linked text and figures in the Wired iPad app.|
|Smartphone app allows broadcasting from the CNN cloud directly to a viewer's TV.|
|With two screens, the user-interface is always on the touchscreen, never on the TV screen.|
|Mobile device used as a combination TV remote and interactive program guide.|
About the Author
- Peter Redford
- is located in San Jose, California.
- Mr. Redford is a TV futurist and a Silicon Valley technology pioneer. He started his technology career over 33 years ago as a researcher with the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Since 1981, he has served continuously as CEO of venture capital funded Silicon Valley technology companies and sold his first company to Yamaha in 1982. He currently serves as Chairman and CEO of iLook Corporation (www.ilook.tv), Chairman and CEO of TV Interactive Corporation (www.tvi.com) and sits on the boards of several Silicon Valley technology companies. Redford was granted over 40 digital media technology patents including the original software patents for the graphical user interface (GUI), and for the AutoPlay technology used in Microsoft Windows and in Blu-ray disc players. Redford’s patents have been licensed to all of the major companies in the consumer electronics, video game, toy and personal computer industries (including Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Dell, HP, Sony, Panasonic, Sega, Samsung, LG, Philips, Hasbro, Mattel, and many others). Redford holds an M.S. in Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. You can contact him at email@example.com.