We’ve come a long way. It was not long ago when most of us had but a single screen in our homes – the television set. (Of course in our house growing up, we had a lot more than that. I come from a family of early adopters). Over time, we added second and third TVs as well as an entirely new category of screen in the form of the personal computer. Increasingly, both TVs and PCs are now found throughout the home, connected to each other as well as the Internet. Net result, a dramatic increase in the complexity of consumer infrastructure. In short, it just doesn’t work most of the time for too many folks and I blame the home network. Oh, it’s not merely three screens consumers are dealing with but rather multiple PCs, TVs, and other stuff with a screen on it.
IMHO, the growth of multiple screens and devices in the home now presents a challenge and an opportunity for all vendors in this space. Screens within the home have gone from disconnected to connected, both to the Internet and to each other. As more households become networked, the increase in importance of the home network will begin to rival the overall importance of any single device connected to it and the network is just not up to the task. The primary challenge is that consumer-networking products have not been optimized for anything close to ease of use. Most networking gear is simply re-packaged technology, designed to be used in business settings and deployed and managed by network professionals with strong IT backgrounds.
As consumer interests in sophisticated usage models grow over time, today’s technology will increasingly frustrate consumers with deployment and support. Terms such as NAT translation, DHCP and Port Forwarding might mean a lot to SlashGear readers but are meaningless terms to the lay consumer. The sad part is in-depth understanding of these technologies is often critical to obtaining an optimal experience for functionality. The result has been high dissatisfaction with the overall experience. While retail vendors are using consumer confusion as a result of complexity as an opportunity to promote their service offerings, this is not the optimal answer to the problem. It is, however, an opportunity for vendors to differentiate from the pack and claim leadership in consumer ease of use, deployment and management.
Let’s be clear, the vision of the digital home rests on the home network and the different devices and screens that are connected to it. The first vendors who work to embrace different content types as well as facilitate the discussions with media and content companies to allow that content to flow inside and outside the digital home will be the most successful in capturing the various endpoints in the digital home. In short, it’s got to work the first time and every time, all the time. Vendors in this space have recognized the importance of simplifying the CE experience for users and provide optimized tools for deployment and management. Those that ignore this issue will be relegated along with older analog technologies and casualties of the consumer digital world, like the old family VCR with the flashing 12:00 that most consumers could never get to work right either.