Will TVs and computers merge?

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If on one hand the Net might become more similar to television, but on the
other, new technologies such as Intel's Intercast are pushing television
toward the Net, will TVs and computers remain two different appliances or will
they merge?

-- Claudio Gatti, December 22, 1996


I'm not sure that it matters. Standalone TVs and computers are such unimaginative appliances that they tend to develop in completely predictable ways. Engineers were building data systems for TV sets 20 years ago. Web TV just happens to be the latest. Besides, this is America. I live alone in a 7-room apartment with a dog. We have three computers and two TVs. I don't even know how I got them all. I don't have cable or an antenna so I can't watch either TV (I have two VCRs but I'm too lazy to go out and rent videos). And I only really use one of the computers.

I used to feel guilty about being so wasteful, but now I've concluded that not being a materialist in the U.S. is kind of like not appreciating opera if you live in Milan or art if you live in Paris. We support materialism better than any other culture. Because retailing and distribution are so efficient here, stuff is cheaper than anywhere else in the world. And then we have huge houses in which to archive our stuff.

-- Philip Greenspun, December 22, 1996

It doesn't matter.

Having interactive TVs and media-riddled Net areas won't alter the fact that there's almost nothing worth watching.

But that doesn't really answer your question. So, if you care what I think, I say the technologies will merge within the decade (even if there persists a distinction between TV set and PC).

-- Bobby Downes, December 12, 1998

In my humble opinion ....

The Internet will eventually become the delivery and retrieval device of all information, all forms of media, all forms of communication, and all electronic devices (both hard wired and wireless). One can argue how it will happen or when it will happen, but it will happen.

I can only hope that when the virtual dust settles the Internet has made the world a better place and not simply opened the door to having our dishwashers (which we received for free because they are now capable of puking out a mass of advertisements for various brands of dishwashing detergents) and other kitchen appliances hacked.

I am hopeful that in 10 years the Internet will not be pushing advertisements to every electronic device from my coffee maker, which will tell me to buy whorebucks brand of coffee - "coffee that has the pure, lively and legendary richness that only whorebucks rich coffee can offer" - to my toothbrush which will detect that I have coffee stains on my teeth and let me know that "Crust toothpaste was recommended by 4.4988 million out of 4.5 million dentists on the Net this past hour for the removal of coffee stains". At which point my head will explode!

-- Chris Grady, December 22, 1998

When streaming video is able to deliver porno on big-screen TVs, then the Internet and television will merge (have merged).

This goes along with my theory that, if it were not for pornography, we'd all still be using 300 baud modems to hook up to our local BBS. The Internet is not so much an information delivery system as it is a dirty picture delivery system. The more informationally-inclined merely reap the benefits of the bandwidth improvements

-- Jack Pate, August 2, 1999

WebTV. BTW, Gatti, you follow a thread, when you start one, eh? _yahu

-- Barin Van Krugel, May 5, 2000

Nothing is merging or converging -- such is the wisdom of those marketing guys Al Ries and Jack Trout. This has been the red herring of technology and business for some time now. We may have hopes of convergence or fears of convergence, but what actually happens over time is divergence. The TV and computer share a similar display device but that doesn't mean they are converging. The palm devices and cell phones share a few things but they won't converge either, though many think they will. The car and plane share the fact of wheels and are both transportation, but I don't think they will be converging. The amphibious car never took off. (Perhaps it needed wings.)

What I think happens is divergence -- with connection, integration, and infrastructure. We use both the TV and the computer, and they each refer and know about the other. The signals may even come over the same cable wire, but no real convergence, no compuTV. There may some exceptions (WebTV, shelf stereo systems with CD, tape and radio) but the overwhelming trend in technology is divergence.

The same is true in business. Xerox saw the connections between copying and computing but could never make them converge. AT&T saw the connections between communications and computers, bought a computer company (NCR I think) but could never make them converge. Finally they broke them apart again, out of which Lucent was born. (This is not original analysis, but stuff from books of Al Ries and/or Jack Trout. I just think they are right about this issue.)

Convergence is a powerful dream, though. Look at all the billions exchanged on mergers trying to marry one business and another. Total revenue of the combined company seems impressive, but the merged thing never seems to live up to hopes, and profits generally decline as focus is diluted. That's one of Ries's points about Japan and the East. Japan has all these huge conglomerates (convergence to the Nth), and they seem to do well, but the average profit margin is very slim (1.1% profits on sales for the top 100 companies) compared to the US with fewer conglomerates and more focused companies (6.3% profits on sales for the top 100 companies).

In all things human and living, divergence seems to be the trajectory. The dream of convergence I believe (WARNING: psychometaphyscial philosophy ahead) is a projection of the underlying unity of the universe (as known by sages and in the unconscious of the rest of us) onto human creations. Unity may be the ultimate truth but that doesn't mean the things we make are going to converge.

-- David Freeman, May 5, 2000

Following this thread is interesting... people having a terse conversation across several years... of course the latest postings have a little better insight than the former, since the internet is relatively a new medium (compared to say, the radio).

I think the issues regarding merging or diverging will largely be determined by power struggles carried out between companies using lobbyist, lawyers, and the courts... the competition for bandwith, in the air and on the ground, is very strong, and some mediums (such as T.V. broadcasts) may have to give way for others (such as cell phone communications).

-- David Guarneri, May 15, 2000