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Let the Convergence Begin. CES 2010 and the Future.

CES is in full swing at the Las Vegas convention center this week, and there are all sorts of crazy announcements that have been coming out cool new gadgets and technologies. The one thing I have been noticing is, there seems to be a lot of buzz this year around 2 specific product formats. Tablet PC’s, and Internet streaming devices like Boxee, and Vudu.

Today Microsoft’s Steve Balmer  introduced “Slate” it’s touch screen tablet running windows 7. The device will be built by HP, and available later this month. The price has yet to be announced. One thing for sure though, it’ll be cheaper than Apple’s iSlate, or iTablet which set to be announced on January 27th.

HP Slate Running Windows 7 Touch

In the keynote Steve Balmer said,

“They’re more powerful than a phone and almost as powerful as a PC. Perfect for reading, surfing the web and taking entertainment on the go.”

This is an important statement  because it give credence to an emerging trend. People want all their communications and entertainment devices to play together. They also want access to their media of choice any time, any place, anywhere.

In addition to Microsoft, other touch screen tablets have been announced by Lenovo, Nokia, and IDC which introduced the Tegra, which will have connectivity through T-mobile as well as Wifi making it a true mobile device.  The Tegra is running on the emerging tablet OS of choice Android, which is going to become the 800 pound gorilla of Operating Systems in the near future. T-Mobile is  positioning the Tegra as a tablet for the whole family, and says that the device is designed primarily to sit in the kitchen to let families keep watch on the household calendar and manage their schedules — although it’s also of course still capable of things like 1080p video playback, music streaming, running Google applications and widgets, surfing the internet etc.

The Android OS Tegra

Nokia Booklet 3G

Sounds like a bit of convergence doesn’t it? Which brings me to the net connected devices like Boxee’s latest.

Not only is the Boxee just a beautiful piece of industrial design, it is a game changing piece of hardware. Here is why.

The Sub 200 dollar Boxee

First off Flash 10.1 support. This means that the device can not only place shift your favorite TV shows and movies, it can run any application that you can develop in Flash. This is huge. It means that if you are a designer of interactive content, or applications, you can get them on to that big flat panel TV in everyone’s living room. For under $200, Boxee will support a wide range of formats, including DivX, VC-1, WMV, H.264 MKV, and Flash 10.1.The  service support is equally broad, with channels from Pandora, Last.fm, Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, and Flickr all integrated, and today it was announced that they are in talks with Netflix.  In addition there is the Boxee app platform so anyone can design additional apps, plugins, and games.

Like Boxee Vudu made similar announcements at CES saying that are partnering with 3 of the largest manufacturers of LCD televisions, and bringing over 100 new channels streamed directly to your TV set.

The Vudu UI as seen in all its 1080p Glory

For the last year, Vudu has been steadily strengthening its service offering by rolling out applications like Wikipedia, Pandora, and Flickr to connected LG TVs (all this in addition to streaming 1080p movies to you from the Vudu service). With Vudu Apps they expand their reach in terms of services offered as well as hardware supported, by offering hundreds of apps to connected TVs and Blu-ray players from a variety of new partners: and the service will show up in HDTVs from Mitsubishi, Sanyo, Sharp, Toshiba and Vizio, as well as Blu-ray players from those last two companies.

So why is this a big deal?

Because with these kinds of services you don’t need the cable company or AT&T to provide you with entertainment services. Both of these devices only require you to have an internet connection, which is great for us. Time and place shifting of content has changed the way people interact with content so much in the last 5 years that it’s no surprise that devices like Boxee and Vudu are making such huge gains in the content delivery game.

What all these devices bring to the table though are the first real steps of how we are going to be interacting with media by the end of this decade. The fact that Boxee has Flash support is huge. This means it has Browser support. That means it will be able to let you do so much more than be a passive observer. It will be interesting to see what these companies start to do with multiple application and media feeds. Verizon is already making headway with its FiOs system allowing you to Tweet, and check Fantasy Football stats while watching a real-time broadcast of your favorite show or movie. Combine that with the power of any of these net connected devices and imagine the future. Think Slingbox on steroids.

It’s gonna get fun people and I can’t wait.

Hulu Really Could Change Everything

Yesterday posted a rather dreamy vision of how we will consume media and interact with TV, Internet, Mobile device etc. If you didn’t read it, the basic point was where are we going to be in 10 years, and get ready because how you use things like your TV especially will be a very different animal. I really think that cable providers are going to have to re-think the way they do business. Their business model is a mess, and really they seem out of touch with what consumers want.

On the Hulu blog, there were some interesting year-end facts they posted. And this is why I think you won’t experience  TV the same way you do today in 5 or so years.

– Monthly users of Hulu, as measured by comScore, grew to over 43 million, a 95 percent increase over this time last year.

– Monthly streams, as measured by comScore, grew to 924 million, a 307 percent increase from this time last year.

– Hulu’s content library doubled over the past year. They now offer over 14,000 hours of premium content, up from 5,600 hours at this time last year.

– Hulu grew from 130 content partners last year to over 200 today, which includes the addition of Disney/ABC content.

– The number of advertisers/marketers Hulu have served has more than doubled, growing from 166 to 408. As a team, we are extremely excited about the atypically strong results we have been able to drive for our marketing partners.

– 6.4 million Hulu video players were embedded across the web in 2009, a 237 percent jump from 2008 levels. To date, Hulu players have been embedded on over 207,000 websites.

– Some of the more prominent consumer-facing innovations from 2009: Hulu Desktop, Captions Search, Continuous Play, Tags, and the ongoing innovation hub that is Hulu Labs.

– Our search service managed nearly 1 billion search queries in 2009, up 175 percent from 2008.

– The five most popular shows on the service in 2009:

– Hulu’s most embedded video of 2009 was the live stream of Barack Obama’s inauguration.

– The most popular clip on Hulu in 2009 was “Motherlover“, a Saturday Night Live Digital Short.

– The most popular full episode on Hulu in 2009 was Family Guy’s “Stew-Roids.”

– Our customers had a lot to say about us in 2009, and Hulu listened carefully. Some of the more colorful comments (via Twitter):

  • BradMays: If Hulu.com truly is an evil alien plot to take over the world…I’ve already been assimilated.
  • andrewjmay: Dear Hulu, This has been on my mind for a while now, but tonight is the night that I let you know my true feelings….I love you.
  • kiki_miserychic: I’m getting a coffee from McCafe tomorrow because Hulu told me to do it. My brain is liquidy slush.
  • Tiffanyasapun: found Hulu.com and my feet hurt. Those 2 are unrelated.

– Hulu was fortunate to receive a number of awards over the last year, including being named the World’s 3rd Most Innovative Company (Fast Company, March 2009), being included in TIME magazine’s Top 50 Best Websites, and ranking among the Top 5 fastest rising Google search terms.