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The convergence of the television and the web has been promised for more than a decade now. Anyone remember Microsoft's acquisition of WebTV in 1997?
There were good reasons at the time to see the potential of a marriage between the internet and the TV, and there still are. Like a lot of predictions, however, this one was a bit premature. But is now the time?
According to Microsoft, millions of Xbox Live users have taken advantage of new social media features the company rolled out a week ago, which give users access to services like Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm through their Xboxes. Approximately 10% of Xbox Live users logged into Facebook in the first week, and half a million Last.fm accounts were created by Xbox Live users in the first 24 hours after launch.
Is convergence finally becoming a mainstream reality? While the total number of Xbox Live users (20m) is modest in the overall scheme of things, Sony is also directly integrating PlayStation 3 with Facebook, indicating that this isn't a one-off trend.
Whether or not this specific trend really becomes meaningful or not, it does highlight the fact that some of the most connected consumers are interested in accessing popular web services through gaming consoles and their televisions. This has a number of implications:
- It confirms that consumers want to access their favorite online services through multiple devices. The internet isn't just about the PC anymore. It's about mobile phones, gaming consoles, smartbooks, etc. The most connected consumers may weave their use of the internet across all of these devices in an interchangeable fashion.
- Online services can tap into new audiences and build stronger relationships. In some markets, mobile phones or gaming consoles, for instance, might prove to be the most effective means of reaching a particular audience. And when it comes to reaching connected consumers, having an online service that's accessible via any device can help foster stronger relationships with users.
- Device manufacturers need to integrate thoughtfully. While the PlayStation 3, for instance, already has a built-in web browser, Sony has turned events that take place in-game to automatic Facebook status updates, demonstrating the ability to more closely integrate purpose-specific devices with online services in a more meaningful way.
Obviously, it would be premature to suggest that the type of convergence that was predicted in the past is finally coming to fruition. But each day it's more evident that the internet is going to be at the center of new consumer experiences and these experiences aren't all going to take place on a PC. From that perspective, perhaps we're seeing more of a 'divergence' as the internet experience fragments onto multiple kinds of devices. This will create a lot of headaches as developers grapple with competing standards and UI/UX challenges, but the good news is that it's all about the internet.
Photo credit: mawel via Flickr.