Thursday, May 17, 2012

Goodbye TV, Hello TV

Another nail has been driven into the coffin of this thing called a television. Or has it?

Within the past 30 days, Cablevision released its Optimum App for Laptops at It's available for Windows and Apple computers. This is a companion product to its mobile Optimum app that turns your Apple iPad, iPod Touch or Android device into another device on which you can watch movies and record videos.

What this app does is turn your laptop computer into yet another television in your home, as well as give you access to your digital video recorder in your home or at Optimum, let you watch live TV, schedule recordings and more.

I tried it on a couple of laptop computers in my home and it worked fine. It did not let me install it on a laptop with an external monitor, nor did it let me install it on a desktop computer.

According to Cablevision, this limitation is due to licensing issues because of the video signal that can traverse an unsecure cable from the main computer to the monitor. The point is that if a signal going from my computer to a monitor is not encrypted, anyone could copy and rebroadcast the recording without the owner's permission.

But what the new Optimum App for Laptops does is it allows any laptop computer to become a television. Already, you can watch DVDs on most laptop computers. The Optimum app already lets mobile devices watch TV on them ... so why do we need a large-screen TV at home at all?

I will continue to bang this drum that there are two reasons why TVs will continue to be a large part of our lives:

First, as humans, we need to spend time with others. Watching a TV show or movie as a family is a fun, enjoyable -- and I say essential -- part of being a group. Sitting on the sofa, having popcorn is a valuable experience. Having everyone watch their own small screen just isn't the same.

Second, sometimes entertainment is still better on a big screen with great sound. The opening weekend of "The Avengers," a group of my friends and I went to see the movie in IMAX 3D. It's not every show that we want the "big screen, big sound" experience, but this was one of those times. It was also a great human experience. I believe that large-screen televisions in the home will also continue to be attractive, especially as more entertainment comes into the home.

One of the limitations that is also present with the Optimum apps is that they work only in your home. If you're at a neighbor's home or on a trip, they won't work. Again, Cablevision confirms these are licensing rather than technical issues. I certainly hope that the lawyers and finance people are able to work out these issues, as the idea of "entertainment anywhere" is becoming more and more pervasive.

With all of these changes, I applaud Cablevision for continuing to provide these additional services at no extra charge. Please keep working on the licensing issues for content. They are solvable and worth the effort.

Mark Mathias, a 30-plus year veteran of information technology and a resident of Westport, Connecticut, was named by Computerworld magazine to their inaugural list of “Premier 100 IT Leaders.” This column was originally published in the Westport News on Wednesday 16 May 2012.

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