In late 2005, in an earlier phase of the IPTV hype cycle, we published an article that drew attention to the IPTV industry’s lack of standards.
"There is currently no standardized solution for an end-to-end system to deliver rich content over IP," wrote Jean-Francois Fleury, a technical leader with Thomson Broadband R&D, in what was originally a 2005 IBC technical paper.
How times have not changed so much.
In late March 2009, Light Reading‘s International News Editor Ray Le Maistre wrote that a prominent venture capitalist was saying the IPTV sector is "dogged by a lack of standards."
And it’s not just IPTV. On the first day of The Cable Show, I caught up with Guy Charbonneau, SVP business development digital TV at BlueStreak Technology. "We think that cable is messy, but wireless, it’s, ‘Oh, (expletive)!’" he said. Innumerable models, unique system features and ephemeral life cycles make working with mobile phones a beastly exercise.
"You break your head to get into one of these devices, and then it’s out of the market," he said.
As indicated by Charbonneau, whose company supports the video platforms at Time Warner Cable, Videotron and Orange, cable has its own reputation for disorder. Through collaborative bets on standards, however, the industry tries to navigate between the extremes of chaos and single source. Canoe Ventures’ Common Advanced Advertising System (CAAS), publicly unveiled at The Cable Show, is an example.
Built in line with SCTE 130, a standard not exclusive to cable, Canoe’s CAAS promotes a national, multi-vendor driven platform across all services, from video to Internet to wireless.
Will it work? Early concern I heard from one programmer was that MSOs were implementing Enhanced Television Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), a part of the Canoe specification, in their own ways. Some variance may be inevitable. The goal of all theory, as Einstein said somewhere more eloquently, is to make things as simple as possible, but no simpler. Reducing complexity is a realistic goal that can drive business; eliminating it is a fool’s errand.