One of my favorite quotes about life comes from Yogi Berra who said, “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Yogi is absolutely right — it woud be nice to predict the future by simply analyzing our past behavior. If life was that straightforward, then every armchair quarterback of an investor would make millions off the stock market by simply looking at past stock performance. In reality, life is just more complicated and far less predictable.
I was excited to read an article in the New York Times by Quentin Hardy* about the potential analytics as a service offering from Amazon. While Mr. Hardy was somewhat unclear regarding what type of analytics service Amazon may provide, the article seemed to indicate that they are interested in developing a predictive analytics service. Predictive analytics is incredibly valuable to marketers as it allows brands to analyze volumes data, such as purchase history or social analytics chatter, to determine when will segments of consumers are most likely respond to a marketing tactic or to complete a purchase.
Boxee Founder Avner Ronen announced yesterday that Boxee has closed a $16.5M round of financing. The timing couldn’t have been any better as Boxee is trying to fend off competitors such as Google TV, Apple TV and Roku. While sales of Apple TV and Roku remained strong at the end of 2010, the Google TV box from Logitech failed at launch — there were plenty of misses like the awkward keyboard wasn’t backlit, a confusing user interface, and a slow search interface that frequently returned incomplete results. And on the software side, Google asked vendors to hold off rolling out displays with embedded Google TV. While Google will certainly return with a stronger offering, Boxee now has additional funds that they can use to get out ahead.
How can Boxee dominate the market?
Content is king and Boxee aims to bring all of your home media content together in one device. With Boxee, users can scan/access their music library from another computer, a feature that is missing from both Google TV and Roku. Ronen anticipates using the funds to grow their development team and introduce additional (paid) content on their device. According to the support forum, requests for Amazon Video Streaming integration have become extremely popular ever since the announcement of free movie and TV content streams for Amazon Prime members so I believe that Boxee may focus on supporting this in the next release. With the major networks blocking access to their free streams, Boxee is better served by focusing on integrating with partners that want to share content.
The Boxee team also plans to expand on the embedded software front. In addition to serving as an interface for an Iomega home media storage device, the Boxee software will soon be integrated into ViewSonic TV’s. This should solidify Boxee as a software solution that can complete with the Google who has partnered with Logitech and display vendor Samsung. Boxee will hopefully leverage their already active developer community to expand the availability of content (and functionality) on their offering.
This exciting news signals additional interest and trust in the future of interactive TV.
After almost four weeks of speculation, Amazon rolled out their unlimited video on demand service for Prime members. According to the announcement, Amazon Prime members, who already enjoy free two day shipping for a $79 flat annual fee, will now have unlimited access to 5,000 streaming movies and television shows. The move was initially viewed as a direct attack at video streaming service Netflix, which offers similar services at $8/month for unlimited access.
Consumption of video content is primarily conducted on the web. According to a recent report by Nielsen on video consumption, usage in January in the U.S. is up considerably from the same time last year as time spent viewing video on PC/Mac/laptops from home and work locations increased by 45%. And Netflix users on average spend 11 minutes watching videos, which is more than double the amount of time spent by Hulu subscribers.
When considering these numbers, it is clear to see that video on demand services are an integral component of next generation TV or interactive TV (iTV). This begs the question: how will Amazon’s service impact Netflix? To best answer this question, one may want to look at a few factors: