I was recently talking to a colleague about purchasing a new TV and how prices were dropping recently. I made a sarcastic comment that the manufacturers will find some way to maintain the price by adding features, (many of which we don't need). That's when he sent me this announcement about a partnership between content distributor Netflix and electronics manufacturer LG.
While seemingly logical to add Ethernet to the TV, the ramifications (to me) are much more ominous. Today, most cable service providers get to control what you watch using a set-top box. While it is true that the set top box may have an Ethernet connection, most cable providers either do not activate it or charge a premium for activating it. Now people might say: 'What's the big deal? How is this deal any different than playing DVDs?' I see it differently. To me, being able to access the internet directly from the TV is a direct parallel to Dual-Mode Mobile Handsets, which can now bypass the mobile service provider network when a WiFi access point is available.
So far the price difference for this new Ethernet feature is greater than what it would cost to buy a PC dedicated to the task, but ultimately it will become a commodity item and be far more convenient. As this happens, I see new internet content providers taking advantage of it and the video service provider quickly being relegated to bit-pipe status the same way the mobile telephony service provider is heading. Now, all this will take time of-course, but the ease and convenience by which the average consumer can now gain internet access on their TV opens the gates that much wider.
The question I ask is what is the long-term impact? In twenty years, will there be any way to still make money on cable or mobile services beyond simple access fees? Will Service Providers be getting the next big government bail-out? If it comes to that, does the government take over the access links and run the internet, all the way to the user?
To me it will be a curious dichotomy should the very people who clamor for free and open access to the network and its content should some day cause the very network they love to be owned and managed by the government.
What do you think?