As evidenced by the news this week of the new HTML5-based Kindle Cloud Reader, much of the news about HTML5’s rapid ascent has centered on mobile devices. But the fast-growing technology won’t just be a one-screen phenomenon. In fact, HTML5 is set to completely invade the living room in the coming years, as the slow trickle of browsers and HTML onto TV screens grows into a flood.
The sofa web speaks HTML5
When the HTML-on-TV trend was just getting momentum in 2006, I noted to Om that true web browsing would be coming to TVs via game consoles. While these early efforts at the “sofa web” please some early adopters, most people would ultimately access the TV web not through TV-based web-browsing but instead through optimized web TV platforms like Apple TV, Roku and Google TV.
But we’re at a new stage, where interfaces, apps and complete TV experiences will be rendered in HTML5, for three specific reasons.
1. Platform fatigue. While the first iteration of app-driven OTT devices like AppleTV and Roku made the TV web more palatable, each required developers to write to different platforms. As a result, the smart-TV industry is being dumbed down due to platform fragmentation. As we’ve started to see with the smartphone and tablet world, content providers and developers see new hope in HTML5 as a way to avoid the high cost of fragmentation.
And it’s not just content owners and developers; it’s the platform providers themselves, who see the benefits of HTML5 as they look to go to multiscreen and attract the best developers. Both Google and Boxee are embracing HTML5, and it’s clear that Apple TV could also go this route if Apple were to choose to do so.
2. Interfaces. Back in 2006, Philips and a few other CE companies saw the future and worked with the CEA to develop a TV-centric HTML interface that would work with remotes and the 10-foot interface required for the living room. While some technology providers like Oregan Networks embraced CE-HTML early, it took a while for it to make it to the living room. But it finally did, in 2009.
Moving forward, CE-HTML and HTML5 will be joined at the hip for new TV user interfaces, and it won’t just be for new-world platform providers like Google. DivX is rolling out HTML5 features in its players, and it is likely that Rovi itself could open up to HTML5 as it evolves its latest TotalGuide EPG.
3. Social TV platforms. I’ve been writing for a while about what could happen if Facebook really went after the TV interface, and it looks like the company is finally waking up to the opportunity. Facebook has long embraced browser apps on mobile devices, and just as it is moving toward HTML5 in this space, I expect its efforts in TV will utilize HTML5 as well.
I’ve also speculated about the possibility of Google+ on Google TV. As Google makes Google+ a true app platform, I expect that HTML5 will play a large part in both the social UI as well as any applications that are built on top of Google+.
As Om wrote earlier this week, HTML5 is gaining momentum across all the screens in our lives. TV will be no exception, and the blurring of the lines between over-the-top, pay TV and the web in general will continue apace because of it.
The HTML5 invasion of the living room has begun.