Are You Ready for the Sofa Web?

In less than 72 hours from now many kids, and many more overgrown kids will be tearing off carefully wrapped packages, and with glassy eyes head to the nearest television to plug in their Xboxes, Wiis, and an odd PlayStation 3. And after playing around for a bit, many of you will discover that these new living room monsters have amazing Internet abilities. Welcome to the sofa-web!

Wii has a new browser friend in Opera. PS3 has a built in browser, and Microsoft just might add browsing to the mix. At the risk of repeating myself, I think these devices, and their broadband abilities will open up new vistas of opportunity, a whole new Internet so to speak.

Just like the mobile Internet proved to be a brand new opportunity, the gamer Internet could add, and extend the Internet, as we know it. Opera, the browser maker that has a tiny market share in the desktop world, is a good proxy for what is to come.

They were one of the first few companies to benefit from building web standards compliant software for the mobile Internet. Unlike Microsoft, they did not cram a web-browser into a mobile phone. Instead they built a browser that took the web of today and repackaged it for the tiny screen.

No wonder Opera’s mobile browsers are finding their way into most name brand mobile phones. Back in April 2006, when I interviewed Jon von Tetzchner, he said that when a good browser was available on the mobile phone, the data usage of phones went up. “I think any device that is connected and has a screen is an opportunity for us,” he had said.

And true to form, the Norwegian software company has been quick to recognize the opportunity that the “gamer Internet” represents and has made aggressive forays to extend their reach. Michael Wolf, an analyst with ABI Research and a good buddy of ours, agrees.

Wolf says, “the browsers in game consoles could be game-changers since they are devices that will see ten-million plus installed base numbers in fairly short order and nearly all of these consoles will be broadband connected.”

Like Opera, Sajeeth Cherian, a Canadian developer who wrote BitTorrent client Videora is jumping into the gamer-web business and has started Red Kawa, a company that bring web to the consoles.

“We are trying to create a new market for Rich Internet Applications and Games by bringing them into the living room using a variety of new web enabled devices like the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii,” he says. “We have developed a service called the Red Kawa Marketplace which allows people to share their web games or applications and soon they will be able to charge and get paid for them as well.”

They have for instance created an application called SofaTube, which is a “mashup of YouTube and Revver designed to be used in the living room instead of a computer.” Though it can be seen on your PC, it is made to be seen on PlayStation 3 browser, on the Nintendo Wii. I guess, the big problem will be the keyboard and typing in the text, but a bluetooth keyboard with a USB-based bluetooth adapter could do the trick.

Now a lot of people are going to think about what is the big deal? YouTube freed from PC, now on your TV, is a pretty good idea, even though the image quality will be pathetic. But that is a good forbearer of what could be a big trend: web apps to the game platforms, and then a whole ecosystem around it. Think about that when you Box with your Wii!