Sweet mother of God: Reality comes to “iTV”

It is one of our perennial hobbyhorses here at NUblog to belittle and deride “convergence,” meaning anything that attempts to put TV on computers or computers on TV. We have a whole section on the topic.

The perennial question is simple: Will they ever learn?

Convergence doesn’t work and nobody wants it. We’re all very happy for computers and televisions to remain separate, rather as fridges and stoves do.

Guess who has finally gotten religion? Mighty AT&T!

AT&T has been testing advanced software from a Microsoft competitor and, subsequently, AT&T officials concluded that consumers weren’t ready for many of the advanced features that the phone and cable company envisioned offering.

There. It’s that simple.

“Instead of trying to leap tall buildings, we’re doing a crawl, walk, run,” said [some functionary].... AT&T officials said the company’s interactive-TV strategy and the shift toward less complex services “evolved” from market research. Instead of surfing the Web via the TV, [a petit fonctionnaire] said, customers want “enhanced” video products, such as video on demand and personal video recorders-devices that automatically save a TV show to a computer hard drive, letting viewers “pause” live TV and skip commercials, like products currently on the market from companies such as TiVo Inc.

Remember, not only is convergence an intractable boondoggle, AT&T can’t even converge its telephones. We recently enjoyed a 20-minute escapade of attempting to place a TTY relay call on an Internet-enabled Java-based screenphone in a major American airport – obviously a far superior system than simply providing a mechanical TTY that would still function through a bioterrorism attack or if left outside in the acid rain. We suppose it is a matter of pride for AT&T’s developers that, after every single conversation-truncating crash (one after another after another), the software dutifully rebooted itself, verily begging you to make another call it can disconnect after a minute of typing.

Can you imagine these people inserting the Web into your television set?

As if.

Posted on 2001-07-02