It’s not who wins, but who’s winning

I cannot help but grin (more like grimace) when someone mentions HTML5. Often this is someone I respect as both a comrade and a friend. You just never really know what they mean.   Is it a technology?  Is it an app platform?   Is it a strategy?  Is it a buzzword?  This makes it even more rewarding to read the now constant flood of articles denouncing HTML5 as a barely feasible (let alone recommended) approach for a display technology.   This surely is a result of the long delay in HTML5 being properly (consistently)  implemented “everywhere”.  It is just not living up to the promise and 2 years later, people are running out of patience.

What is HTML5 really? <a href=”http://www.focus.com/images/view/11905/”><b>These guys</b></a> spell it out pretty well.

But really for most companies, what HTML5 adds is video. Pretty much everything else could be done in previous versions of HTML. As far as I know, the new markup still suffers from cross-browser/cross-platform issues that have plagued HTML content in the past. Now, with the the boatload of HTML-enabled devices, from TVs to phones to tablets to automotive dashboards, it is just getting more complex. Not bashing here, just scared as heck!

HTML5 has its place in client app authoring and is the clear choice for certain types of apps on mobile devices.  There is no doubt about it, it has its place that it is clearly winning…

So back to what HTML5 really is — video. But it is not video yet. Ask ANYONE. Ask Google (not the company, the search engine)…well, ask the company too…ask YouTube…ask Brightcove…ask yo momma!

All you need to know right now is that if you want to reach the masses, you still need to provide video to the Flash player that lives in just about every HTML browser. As for mobile devices, Adobe could not support the massive number of hardware manufacturers who were trying to avoid forcing HTML5 video by using Flash. They could not keep up with EVERY device needing some sort of support from so many integrators. They were forced to throw in the towel… Now it is up to these integrators to figure out HTML 5 video integration. I give it two to four years.   The pack will thin itself out and the standards will eventually be honored.

In my opinion, now and the foreseeable future, HTML5 simply means Web 3.0. It is not some sort of revolution in what web browsers do. It should be, but its not.  I would also bet that my industry friends will be well on their way to HTML6 before HTML5 crawls out of the slime…

TV *is* an app…

Most people didn’t notice when the TV they were watching went from analog to digital. It didn’t matter that the pictures they saw were now reproduced from bits rather than waves. HD, DVR, searchable guides, VOD, and even call waiting just started to filter in. These services and features felt like regulated and standardized additions, given their primitive user interfaces and interaction models, which were most often due to legacy design and hardware constraints. Paid television providers, whether telephone, dish, or cable companies, dedicated portions of their managed data network’s capacity to the purpose of streaming video.

TV had made its first steps toward becoming an application. Users (not viewers) now power up their streaming video device and search a rich guide or catalog of television networks that make digital content available to television service providers. They interact with the guide app, the DVR app, the On Demand app, or the Marketplace app to choose which video stream that the TV device decodes.

OTT (over the top) devices such as Samsung Smart TVs and Blu-ray players, Vizio VIA TVs and tablets, Roku set-top boxes, Google TV, Apple TV, and a range of similar devices from Sony, Panasonic, LG, Sharp, and so on, offer a similar experience using the other part of your “network” service provider’s dedicated bandwidth.

Content coming from this portion of the available digital bandwidth is most often sourced outside of the provider’s network on the Internet, so quality of service issues can easily arise. It’s in the best interest of the provider to make sure they are not the one causing any service issues, so in the end, service issues with OTT content are unusual.

OTT devices like the ones noted above are a new class of open video streaming devices, which offer a host of software application services such as Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon, and Cinema Now. These apps offer their own catalogs of available content, often in a more intuitive and rich user interface environment. Wireless devices like phones and tablets are even more capable and feature-rich, with excellent hardware user interface controls, allowing a much better browsing, scheduling, purchasing, and interaction experience. The same software applications are available for all leading mobile platforms. But in the end, users are still choosing a video stream for devices to decode and display.

What you may not know is that ALL of these devices are really just an application suite.   Video playback is the video playback app. The entire TV experience is really just a combination of various apps on these specialized or not-so-specialized media devices.    When you are watching TV, the “computer” that is displaying the content is doing all sorts of things. And what is even less understood is that, given the “appness” of TV, the things this computer can be doing are endless.

Folks are still trying to figure out the best purpose for this unlimited capability. Some want to augment, interrupt, or distract your viewing with other content, whether supportive or parasitic. Some want to learn what people are watching and for how long, along with the watcher’s sex and age. Some want to monitor QOS (quality of service) so they can always bring you the best picture at any given time.

Nonetheless TV is an app. It is alive and aware. It is looking out for you. It is capable at any time of being more than just a video stream. It knows exactly what scene of a show is on and can offer contextual entertainment, information, advertising, or incentives. It knows this not just on a channel-by-channel basis, but from all the viewing you do from the time you plug in your device until you unplug it.

What the hecka?

$150K cars for $40K…

I spent a LOT of years of my life planning to someday, when the timing was right, to pick up a real performer for pennies on the dollar.    These days the options seem unlimited.

Take for instance a late model 2.0T VW or Audi.   There are seemingly unlimited upgraded available from $1K to $10K to take you from 200HP to 400HP…   Any target you pick, you can pretty much rely on quick spool and crizazy pull to redline.   Just to pick a median, one could easily spend less than $10K for a badass performer that still has that nice German feel…

Move up a few bucks (but still probably a better value) to the AMG Mercedes.   The 55 and 63 AMGs are INSANE!   I have been in and driven a few of these cars and the only thing I can compare them to is big V8 cars that I have owned that were also on a 150HP squeeze of the old giggle gas… These things are mean.  They really raise the bar.   Unless you have driven a very modern day CTS-V or Z-06, you might not understand.   6000+RPM of smooth but growly power… Make sure the 55 you are looking at is supercharged as some early models are not.   For anywhere from $30K to $50K, you too can be in control of a suicide machine…   Mods take things beyond 500 WHP…

Another unbelievable deal is the Porsche 996 TT.   These things are sick.   450 HP from the proven Porsche flat 6 twin turbo platform is just the beginning.   Given the mass production of this vehicle there are countless upgrades.   550 WHP is doable for a few $K, but it just straight blows through the stratosphere for dollar amounts like $10K… 750WHP is safe and reliable.  Quick spool.. 91 octane… Daily Driver kinda stuff…  Need I remind you that you are in a 911 Turbo….. These can be had in the $35K to $50K range…  A 2012 Mustang V8 with a few bells and whistles is $30K+…   WTF(udge)!

Software License Poem

I’d like another software license

I’d like another software license

I’d like another software license so I can do my work.

(Inspired by Microsoft’s generous offer to allow me to extend a trial)

no no no, thank you, really…

Don’t be down on the down state

It seems we are at the crux of a major breakthrough in TV interaction.   I have just uncovered a major conspiracy set forth between hardware manufacturers,  interactive design companies, and the MSOs and CE companies.   They have been hard at work making absolutely sure that all TV UI is without a “down state”.   Only after exhaustive investigation have we been able to determine such a conspiracy exists for such reasons as bold as “The consumer will never know”, and the good ole, “It will save us some time”.

(Fife and drum melody playing lightly in the background, voice in somber tone)

I recall a day when PC interactive was down stateless.  Users were confused “did I click?”.   Will the event fire when I click or when I release?  This UI is out to get me…

(strengthening tone)

This leads us to ask ourselves, are Television UI users not deserving of such interaction feedback?

Are they discounting our interaction experience with something that is “good enough”?

Are pixels and memory footprint so important that we just simply remove such an informative button state!?

Do our remotes and IR input hardware even support such a thing?

(perplexed yelling)

What is next?  No difference between “press” state and “release state”?!!!!

(bold yet inviting)

Well there is hope.  I decree that starting from this day forward, that everyone from the hardware engineers to the UX and design teams to the interactive developers can now consider the down state in every way.   Production folks get your selection tools warmed up,  flex that pointer finger with glee and create that PSD layer with confidence that your work will no longer go ignored.

From this day forward let it be known that TV UI has a downstate and that all are free to use it for all that it is worth.  Let me be so bold to state that we dare go so far to not only switch out a visual state but also trigger an audio cue as well.   Don’t just stop with a simple image swap, use an animation for press AND release states.   Release the down state for once and for all!!!  (cheers heard echoing and fading)

But seriously folks, TV UI and its legacy should not bridle its future, please make sure you understand the technology and its capabilities before ruling out interactive fundamentals.    Put the “fun” back in fundamentals and build beautiful HD cinematic UI and break away from legacy hardware and DVD interaction constraints.  The users deserve it…

Adobe Stagecraft

What is it?

I asked just this question to Don Woodward, a Principal Scientist and leader of the Adobe Digital Home initiative.

Don explained it in this manner.

Adobe had taken great steps in making the Flash Lite player available to be licensed by mobile device and CE manufacturers.   The 3.1 verison of this player supported AS2, MP4, and a host of other standard flash components which would allow the existing base of Flash developers to be leveraged by companies looking to develop content for this platform.  If a company licensed the Flash Lite player for their device, Adobe would send over a package of code libraries and documentation, and it was up to the device manufacturer to “port” the player onto the device.   As you might imagine, there was an impact on content portability given that it was up to the device manufacturers to make sure their ports were to spec.   Needless to say, not all device ports worked the same and one of Flash’s greatest strengths “app portability” was compromised.

Stagecraft looked to address this issue and add some global device type specific enhancements that would improve performance.

As I understand it Stagecraft goes one step farther by wrapping the Flash Lite player in a layer that mitigates the risks associated with porting just the Flash Lite player itself.   It insures that SWFs created for one Stagecraft based device will work on all Stagecraft based devices.   The one exception here is the use of EDK extensions.  If a SWF requires any special capabilities that AS2 cannot offer or perform well, a native “extension” can be created that is accessible via a “intrinsic” class facade that can offload this functionality to the host environment.     Portability is preserved across Stagecraft and insured via a device certification process marshaled by Adobe and its partners.

Stagecraft not only insures consistency across devices, it leverages HW graphics acceleration for bitmap compositing and MP4 video.   These two things allow developers to create full motion HD user interfaces as well as pull IP video into a connected device.

Do you want to start your own television network today?   With Stagecraft you can…

Now for the plug… I have been deeply involved with Stagecraft projects for Comcast, Vizio, Rhapsody, Netflix, Samsung, RCDb, and a few others.    I offer services on this as well as browser based connected device UI frameworks.   Please contact me for services ranging from globlal strategic approach in this area to content development.

UPDATE:   This post goes on to compare some versions of the Flash player and calls out Stagecraft itself.

http://whatsyourideaoftomorrow.blogspot.com/2010/03/getting-flash-and-latest-innovations.html

Samsung Internet@TV Hocus Focus

Samsung Internet@TV Flash Gets Focused

Recently while working on a Stagecraft based project for RCDb I ran into a little snag that had I not quickly RTFM’ed I might have been stuck on for a long time.   Now when I say quickly I mean about after an hour of trying every trick in the book including praying, posting to Samsung Dev forum (waited 3 days with no response), and every combination of using the .focus() method I could think of…

The manual states that HTMLObjectElement in fact does *not* have  a .focus() method.    Well, this does not jive with the fact that whatever browser they are using in the “Emulator” does in fact support the .focus() method.  Hence why maybe I did not go to the manual right away.    “It works in the emulator”  (It works on my machine echoing as scene slowly fades to black then a vision of Eddie Vedder glows like the Jesus thing you stare at).

Well, in the end, you need to actually do two things to make it work in both places.

Emulator:
Does in fact support .focus() for the HTMLObjectElement, so just call it at some point after your onLoad method.

TV:
You have to set the tabIndex of the HTMLObjectElement to 0, and then call focus on the window.

tabIndex = 0;
window.focus()

At least that is what works for me…

Now, if you want to set leading on a dynamic text field, post a comment and send your email,  that one is going to cost you… :-)

Cheers!