Project Canvas threatened by TVs with built-in internet

Project Canvas, the BBC’s proposed connected-TV EPG standard, is facing a couple of challenges next year…

Not only has the project been delayed from 2009 to late 2010 by the regulator’s request for a more detailed proposal (meaning it won’t get to piggyback the launch marketing of Freeview HD) – many of the very same TV makers that the BBC is trying to convince to use Canvas are busy actually selling tellies with their own built-in internet services…

More than 20% of flat-screen TVs shipped in Europe next will have internet connectivity, Futuresource estimates in a new report – that’s 15m sets, nearly a tenth of the installed flat-screen base.

In other words, if Canvas is green-lit by the BBC Trust in the next few weeks, by the time it launches, it will be competing with existing internet TV devices that already offer video-on-demand and other selected web services.

“In Europe, four of the major brands have already launched connected TV products that go beyond basic home networking functionality and allow delivery of over-the-top web services,” Futuresource researcher David Watkins tells us in a press release. “This includes basic weather and news pages, social networking, video streaming and catchup TV.

“Although initially limited to high-end and mid-range products, we’re going to see web connectivity feature on an increasing number of products next year, becoming standard within two to three years.”

Are the internet TVs out there today any good? Not according to a recent Gadget Show group test, suffering not in picture quality but in EPG usability, some being walled off from the wider web.

With Canvas, the BBC intends to create consistency in what are likely to be highly variable interfaces and, more interestingly, provide broadcasters with a single on-ramp for providing both free and pay-for VoD. There’s even some talk of a widget platform and developer kit, which could mean a rich set of third-party “apps” connecting to the internet generally.
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