Instant Expectations in the Age of Pandora, Netflix, Roku, Sonos, Hulu Plus and Comcast’s Xfinity
Feb 6, 2011
Companion post: Instant Expectations in the Age of Streaming MPR, WBUR, KCRW and MSNBC
In writing about HTML5 and apps last week, one source summed up one of the virtues of HTML5. “There’s no latency,” he said. That post overall was one of the more technical I’ve done, and I appreciated AdAge’s Matt Creamer noting it as “dense, but clear.” As a non-techie, it made my head hurt to think it through, but it probably jump-started some new neural networks for me.
I was reminded of the connections between these astounding technological developments and our civilian lives this weekend. After much agonizing research, I had finally put together an integrated contemporary audio and video system last month. And then I hired an hourly “technology integrator” (!) to make sure Roku, Samsung Blu-Ray, Sonos, Comcast and Harman Kardon all played well together. After a few glitches, success.
Now I’m encountering how much my expectations for instantaneity — no latency — have grown, as I think all of ours have. I noticed that Pandora still performs flawlessly. Pick out a new Sara Watkins station, and it helpfully asks, would you like to play it now? Imagine, even 10 years ago, being able to pick out essentially a set of music, make a mix or the like, and have it it done in 20 seconds, with no extra work — or payment — on my part. Yet, that’s now my expectation, though I hope to retain the wondered appreciation of the change. Sonos, its multiple digital choices able to be turned on and off, room by room, is an amazement.
I also starting playing with Netflix, via Roku, itself a marvel of almost-instant Internet connectivity, as long it has the plug-ins publicly available, or in my evolving understanding, privately, as in YouTube. Sure enough, Netflix, via Roku, showed me what was instantly available from my pre-selected queue. The process of picking out new films that might be available by streaming is more easily done online rather on TV (Google TV 8?, maybe), if you want to see what critics have to say, rather than pick films based on simple on-TV blurbs. So I picked a couple, added them to our queue, and turned back to Netflix via Roku. No new films available in my streaming queue.
I was surprised. I expected instaneity, and didn’t get it. I can’t imagine how many refreshes of systems are required to get my laptop picks back onto the TV, and my guess is that they were available later in the evening.
Then there’s Xfinity, Comcast’s new entry into the entertainment everywhere, anywhere sweepstakes. I’m still confused about what I’m getting for my 100 bucks a month spent on cable. I’ve been able to log in to Comcast on my laptop, nice, and see some of what’s available via cable. It’s mind-boggling, though, that I can’t access Xfinity on my TV. Or is just me? Sure, Xfinity is meant to be watched on computers and, sure, Comcast provides On Demand selections for TV watching via cable. The consumer confusion is that none of the programming matches up and On Demand availability seems to come and go capriciously. I may need the new Hulu Plus — for another $7.99 a month — to actually get any of the NBC, ABC or Fox TV shows I may have missed or want to see again, and which I’ve already paid for via cable. So Xfinity, which seems to be an improvement, comes across as a reminder of how fragmented availability is. It’s not instantly available, and you seem to need a degree in technology integration yourself to figure out how to watch what when.
It’s all interim internet TV technology.
Internet TV is no longer in its infancy; it’s toddlin’. Yet our human capacity for change, and our expectation of it, may always be a step ahead. As consumers, we expect all these connections to be made, and yesterday. Given the pace of tech change, that’s not totally unreasonable. For those producing content — music, video or news — though, it’s a big headache. The Daily’s dazzling debut last week reinforces that notion, setting a new visual standard for tablet news.
Yesterday’s solution simply is like yesterday’s news: Old, and in the way.