Thursday, October 10, 2013

Invention of the Day: DVR recording from a link on the Internet.

Yesterday, October 9, 2013, Twitter announced that it "will provide links that let pay–TV users record or view programs on Comcast's cable services." Bloomberg News reports about a Comcast executive explaining the new service,
“There are tons of conversation about live TV, but does that really lead to someone programming their DVR or picking up their remote?” Schwartz said. “This very clearly and in a measurable way links that conversation with consumption. If you’re a programmer, you monetize best if someone is watching that show live on a television set. It’s a win-win-win for Twitter, the programmers and the distributors.” 

More than 14 years ago when I worked at Philips Multimedia Center in Palo Alto, California, I invented (US Patent 6,611,654) a service that enabled users to accomplish scenarios now marketed by Twitter and Comcast. One of the scenarios covered by the patent involves a mobile user:
Alice got stuck in traffic on her way home. She is going to be late for the broadcast of a live piano concert. Fortunately, her palm-top Nino (or cell phone, or laptop) can access the TV programming network. With just a couple of clicks Alice sets her recording time-shifting device to cache the concert.
[Nino was a personal communications device developed and marketed — unsuccessfully— by Philips at the time. Tony Fadell, who later went to Apple to develop the original iPod and then created Nest, lead the effort.]

Even at that time, I could see that the Internet and mobile connectivity was going to bring new functionality to the users, including elements of social networking (because the nature of visual media is inherently social). Here's how it is described in the patent:
Alice loves talking about her favorite TV series. She watches the episodes frequently and enjoys every minute of it. In today's episode one of the characters behaves exactly as she predicted a couple of days ago. Alice needs to talk to her friend Jane about it. Jane is at work and cannot see the show. ...  One click and today's phone discussion (telecon) with Jane is going to be a real time experience.
The yesterday's announcement highlights the difference between Invention and Innovation that we emphasize in our book Scalable Innovation.
Source: Shteyn & Shtein, 2013. Figure P3.
Although we were able to make a first step toward innovation in 1999, e.g. by creating a prototype (first red dot on the chart), the innovation has become scalable when the connectivity infrastructure became ubiquitous. Today, phones, TVs, DVRs, thermostats, watches, and other devices are connected to the network and can be accessed by consumers in many contexts — personal, social, and business. As we show in the book, scalable innovation creates its own space. Right now, we enter a new phase (Chapters 15) when the entire system "flips" to accommodate connected devices; adding them to the network has become a "no-brainer."

Alan Kay once said, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." I'm happy I was involved in inventing the right future.

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