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Consumers To Define Home Digital Media

by Andrew Morris~ April 24, 2006


Consumers will determine what applications will be successful in the use and sharing of home-based digital media, according to panelists at the "Living the Digital Media Lifestyle in the Home and Beyond" session.

Chaired by Microsoft's Patrick Griffis, the Sunday afternoon session, part of the Broadcast Engineering Conference, addressed current efforts to create interoperable devices that can share digital content both in the home and on the road.


Panelists included Stuart Lipoff of IP Action Partners who provided the cable TV and consumer electronics perspective, Robert Plummer of DirecTV who offered the view of a satellite television provider and Sheau Ng of NBC Universal who gave a broadcaster's perspective.

To illustrate how consumers can drive a market, Griffis pointed to the path taken by audio recordings which went from vinyl to cassettes to DVD audio and then, "Oops, out of the blue came the iPod which provides multiple copies, easy access and affordability. When it actually succeeded, everybody said, 'Oh yeah, that's an interesting idea,'" he said.

Lipoff emphasized that digital content must be compatible between vendors and amongst systems that allow for content sharing with the home.

"These systems have to be consumer friendly, not just to use, but to plan, to install, operate and maintain. And maintaining is not only from the consumer point-of-view but also from the service provider point-of-view," he said.

Lipoff mentioned Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), which is creating models and encouraging the adoption of standards that will enable the sharing and usage of digital media in the home.

DirectTV's Bob Plummer said, "We're all in the UI (User Interface) business whether it's Apple with the iPod or whether it's DirecTV or cable or DVD. We're all trying to control our own destiny through that UI."

"How do we maintain control of our businesses as we move forward into this world? We're all struggling with this issue," said Plummer.

Plummer discussed DirecTV's relationship with Microsoft and indicated that Microsoft's Windows Media DRM (Digital Rights Management) appealed to DirecTV as did Microsoft's dominant role in the marketplace. Plummer indicated Microsoft's Media Center Edition is in half of the PCs in the marketplace.


Sheau Ng of NBC Universal said the industry must deal with the birth of casual piracy in the form of peer-to-peer file sharing and that consumers must deal with new forms of legacy issues.

He pointed out, "Legacy technology used to mean replacing a black and white television with a color television. The legacy we're talking about now is equipment that is very new. We're talking about I bought device A and I subscribe to service B and guess what, they don't work together. It's a problem of compatibility."

Griffis said that the industry is trying to address "consumers who now expect to view entertainment at any time in any place on any device in the best quality possible."

It became apparent at this session that achieving that goal requires not only a high level of interoperability but satisfactory copy protection and digital rights management that can protect the value of the content that consumers demand.

© 2006 NAB