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Future vision: the mobile nightmare for TV regulators

The biggest threat to the European Commission’s plans to regulate media on the internet is not from organisations like the CBI and OfCom; it is from technology itself. Already devices such as Slingbox [www.slingmedia.com/slingbox] and the software application Orb [www.orb.com] will allow you to pick up TV and video from a home PC equipped with a TV card on an internet-enabled device from anywhere in the world – a nightmare for the regulatory authorities. And it gets worse.

Philips is concentrating on two TV markets, home and mobile, and planning new devices to take advantage of current trends. For the home, Philips is building new TV theatre technology to deliver sophisticated effects, such as wind and lightning for storms, on a “converged” device (part PC, part conventional TV) able to take content from TV signals or the internet.

“The new devices will work with so many different types of content. We don’t think that it will be like today’s TV, but more TV-on-demand where the consumers will create their own schedules,” said a Philips spokesman. Sony’s PlayStation Portable can also play TV via the internet when hooked up to a product called Skybox.

Mobile phone companies such as Nokia and service providers like Orange and Vodafone are preparing for phones that will take content from virtually anywhere. “The devices that are coming are going to be a composite of wireless and 3G,” says Martin Warwick, editor of TelecomTV. IPTV – digitised TV content sent over high-speed internet connections – “is going to be prolific and ubiquitous, though most of the devices out there at the moment are niche devices”.

Designers predict that over the next two years the TV screen will start to determine mobile design, as manufacturers struggle to maximise viewing space. Keypads will become merged into a touch sensitive screen like that on the iPaq. Using these new systems will be child’s play. Regulating them won’t be.

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Published 6th of July, 2006 The Guardian