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Where would I be, without my TV?

Posted: 06.09.03

In 1999, when we finished our landmark Digital Entertainment Box (DEB) study, I came to the conclusion that television is the center of the universe. Ever since then, like King Arthur's knights, I've searched for an alternate truth and found none. The Holy Grail is TV; we love it, hate it, can't live without it; it has been the most transforming thing in the world; it has brought the world to the world. The second or third most transforming thing (ignoring WOMDs) was and is the PC. This is where people spend most of their time. And, contrary to the desires of the employers, the world continues to operate and things happen and there is news, and stories, and sports, and stuff of interest and importance to know about.

Information workers, of which anyone reading this must be counted, seek, process, and generate information, every day, all day. We are like ferrets looking for prairie dogs, except our prairie dogs are information and TV is one of the sources of information. It's also a source of entertainment and companionship. And that's one of the reasons TV has been adapted to the PC. The PC, and the little cubes most of us sit in in front of our PCs, are very isolating, even though we may be a few inches away from someone else. Those of us who work at night when the family sleeps are equally alone and isolated. And those who are trapped in a small room in a school, or on a ship, are alone. Television connects and brings the world in. Then there are those who make minute-to-minute decisions involving millions of dollars, often someone else's, and have to know what's happening in all parts of the world—they can't do it without television. All of these people, some 25 million of them now, have a TV capability in their PC, and over three-fourths of them watch TV on their PC at home, where an additional 17% of them also work.

Is PC TV a novelty or a toy? To some it may be purely for fun, but the industry is nevertheless spending $220 million a year on PC TV, and for many people it's their only source of TV. What's more, in our survey of computer users we found that 53% of people who don't have TV in their PC want it, and/or plan to get it.

TV in your PC doesn't make your PC a home entertainment center, although you can't have a home entertainment PC without television. So there are multiple uses and implementations of TV in or on a PC, and there're 35 companies plus another dozen or two re-branders offering a PC TV capability of one type or another.

Today's typical office worker gets the news and stories from someone else via email. Somehow reading email is OK in the eyes of the employer, because he or she does it, and sends a lot of themÑit's a good thing. Television, at work, however, is a bad thing—something that's distracting and unproductive.

Maybe, but it's like anything else an adult deals with; everything in life is distracting, life is distracting. An adult, in order to qualify as one, manages it. Manages the distractions and manages to stay focused long enough to generate more than they cost. If they didn't then the enterprise couldn't survive (OK, so no TV in government or universities). Therefore, adults can handle the richest information source the world has ever seen, namely TV, during working hours. It's interesting that email and radios, MP3 players, newspapers, and magazinea are tolerated, but television is considered dangerous (to productivity). Perhaps it's the bosses reacting to how they'd behave if TV were available to them.