CES: Motorola eyes 'infotainment' on TVs, cellphones

By Ted Kritsonis, Special to CBCNews.ca

LAS VEGAS - At an exclusive roundtable discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show, Motorola executives sat alongside an executive with Home Box Office (HBO) and a British television service provider about the future of video and TV convergence.

The marriage of mobile devices and TV content is a strong underlying theme at this year's CES. It's common knowledge that increasing broadband internet speeds have helped fuel consumer demand for the ability to watch what they want, when they want and where they want. But the panel suggested there's still a way to go before people can experience real control over the content they consume, despite being "on the cusp of a huge transformation."

The panelists agreed that the cellphone is the most rapidly evolving device in the consumer market, particularly now that they feel that 3G networks will be phased out as they make way for WiMAX and LTE, which would run significantly faster. Once those cutting edge wireless networks are fully deployed, it could facilitate the delivery of much higher resolution video.

But that evolution is hampered by restrictions on the way the phones are designed, manufactured and marketed, some on the panel argued. The user-friendliness of the devices and the high cost of service to consumers have been part of the problem. Once the business model changes to make high-bandwidth wireless services such as streamed video more appealing to the consumer, then using a handset as a mini-TV can become a more viable option to the mainstream cellphone customer, the panelists said.

The panel also discussed the life cycle of the average tech product, and the fact that the useful life of many gadgets is dwindling fast. A new cellphone every year is a necessity for some, but they talked about how the same could soon be true of set top boxes connected to TVs. Satellite receivers and cable boxes will likely have to evolve to include changing Web-based applications that will open doors to all kinds of content anytime the viewer wants to see it, and that could mean updating a box every couple of years, the panelists noted.

(The author is a Toronto-based freelance writer)