I spent today at the Microsoft Research facilities in Cambridge at a seminar on the subject of "Content to Mobile and Other Devices". It was an excellent event with good speakers - the only pity was that we were stuck indoors on the first warm day of the year.
The Seminar was an interesting contrast to the DTG forum I reported on recently. Here the audience was mobile-focused, so BBC and Channel 4 representatives were lone voices when they pleaded for HD spectrum priority. The buzz from attendees was clearly that mobile services would be the winners, and the first in the pipeline is likely to be WiMax. This confirms the conclusion of our recent report (HDTV and DTT: The Impact Of Platform Evolution Decisions On HDTV Adoption Scenarios
) that broadcasters are fighting an uphill battle to get HD on the DTT platform.
Ofcom's Jeremy Olivier warned that the EU's new AVMS (Audiovisual Media Services Directive), due for finalisation by the end of 2007, faces severe difficulties in getting the regulation framework right; particularly in regard to establishing a pan-European content market, and in setting regulations that apply appropriately to all relevant platforms. The stumbling block is of course the Internet, but Olivier expressed the belief that Brussels does not believe the Internet can be turned into a broadcast type of environment. I suspect regulators in some other EU countries not a million miles from the UK may wish to disagree. In any case, the full implications of the final AVMS are clearly still to be resolved.
BSkyB's Stephen Nuttall confirmed what our own research identified three years ago - that TV viewing is now definitely in decline, particularly with young people who have broadband. No surprise perhaps, but different research data can still be contradictory, and we still frequently read reports, perhaps more from the US than Europe, that TV viewing is continuing to rise rather than fall.
Microsoft researchers demonstrated a variety of concept products that might one day feature in the average digital home. My own favourite was the Whereabouts Clock, modelled apparently on a Harry Potter story, which used mobile phone IDs to track and identify family members' locations on a location "dial". Three of the trial families did not want to give up this device - it brought them considerable reassurance as to the location and safety of their relatives and children.
Finally, an entertaining speech from MP Derek Wyatt, who clearly has a passion for all things technology. Mr Wyatt made some interesting predictions, including that all UK national newspapers would be free within the M25 within five years. He also suggested (referring to discussions he had had with Rupert Murdoch) that sooner rather than later a Hollywood studio would go straight to the web with a new movie release, bypassing theatrical, DVD and other windows altogether. The theory is that 5 million buyers would pay $30 each to download the film, generating $150m, more than enough to recoup the investment. I'm sure we'll see someone try this within the next couple of years.