Kevin Hunt: How many screens are in your tech future?

It’s amazing how smoothly technology of the far-off future works.
Internet-connected refrigerators suggest recipes based on the fridge’s contents, a mobile phone activates a touchscreen-controlled washer-dryer and a single button tucks a house into bed at night, turning down the lights, adjusting the heat and activating the security system. What a life, circa 2025.
Wake up! All that technology is available now, today, with all its present-day imperfections. Yet today is a window onto tomorrow, so let’s go completely Futurama today on home entertainment.
Motorola Mobility’s latest Media Engagement Barometer, a study of video viewing habits of 9,000 consumers in 16 markets around the world, hints at where we’re headed. The online survey, released in late December, showed a shift toward “social TV” — discussing or recommending shows via social media — watching television on multiple devices at home or in the mobile world and a deepening reliance on cloud services for music and video.
“Five years from now,” says Nate Williams, Motorola Mobility’s senior director, head of product marketing for the Converged Experiences group, “you’re going to see a dramatic increase in the number of connected devices. The number is about five in the average home now — tablet, gaming console, PC — and it’s going to 15 to 20. You’re going to have a home with more technology and, hopefully, it will be managed in a way that’s a lot more efficient.”
Some possible scenarios:
Television Viewing

In the home, it’s “multiscreen” (televisions, iPads, laptops) with different shows in different rooms, much of it on demand. Some cable companies tantalize with an iPad app offering a small sample of live TV programming (no major networks) over a wireless home network. Comcast’s AnyPlay, powered by Motorola’s TeleVation technology, takes the next step: in-home access to the full cable lineup.
The new TV viewing experience: watch the HDTV, but tweet the best lines, likes/dislikes or post links to Facebook from a tablet or mobile device. This year’s Super Bowl, which Twitter says reached 12,233 tweets per second by the end of  game (and 15 million total), the Grammys (5 million)  and the Oscar ceremonies (2 million) are only a small hit.What consumers really want: Programming available beyond the home, on any device — including mobile phones. (In the future, that’s more likely a Windows Phone than an iPhone.) It’s up to the content providers, the networks and Hollywood.
“The technology,” says Williams, “is there.”
What they’re curious about, though maybe not desirous: Apple’s talk-to-me television, which will bring voice control to HDTV.
Television Programming

The network-cable system collapses. Most original programming emerges from beyond the conventional studio system. Already, Google has injected $100 million for original programming on its video colossus, YouTube. Netflix is recruiting former HBO executive Colin Callender to produce original content. Hulu, another online service, recently showed its first original series, “Battleground.”
What happens if Facebook is next? It’s streaming services vs. cable providers.

<!–Comcast assured it wont be left out of the content scramble by purchasing //NBC//// and forming a streaming service, Steampix. (Prediction: Netflix will be sold. Amazon.com?)
So Comcast can now give Magic Johnson his own network (Aspire). But anyone from my-how-shes-grown Blue Ivy Carter to little Brandon next door can have a network or channel in the new programming galaxy.
The Set-Top Box



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Please, Mr. Futurist, make it go away. Sorry, no one said the futures perfect. Watch for boxes with greater computing power and Internet connectivity as cable companies fight back against streaming services and gaming consoles.
No-disc, high-end video games from a cable box or from online services like OnLive? Yes.
Of course, theres a cable alternative. With increased broadband speeds likely, a consumer might receive all programming over the Internet. Google is in already, starting with Kansas City. Verizon and Vudu, the streaming service owned by Walmart, are potential providers.

Music/Gaming

Say goodbye to the disc and outright ownership of music, movies and video games. Its all moving to the cloud. Why pay $120 for eight CDs or 120 singles from the iTunes store when you can listen to thousands of songs, anywhere, from a service like Spotify for the same (annual) price?
The future always sounds so much more efficient, so convenient. If only we could live in it.
khunt@tribune.com

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