If you’re of a certain age, you’ll recall the mascot of the “Life Be In It” campaign: Norm. Norm was fat, lazy, and essentially interested only in sitting in front of the TV eating pies and drinking beer. Norm was a character of the seventies, although the Life Be In It organisation that promoted him has stepped away from the Norm character in recent years for fear of emulation. For our own health, we should get up from the couch and get mobile.
A recently released application from the ABC might make the couch potato stereotype an obsolete historical oddity, offering TV in a mobile format. Sure, it’s not exactly a trip to the gym, but you’ve got to start somewhere, and TV addiction is a tough thing to beat.
For years, one of the promises of mobile television has been that it’ll be not only mobile but watchable and engaging, but for years all we’ve had is tiny little grainy screens and high data charges, making mobile TV rather off-putting. Most of the solutions have relied either on heavily compressed data or specific mobile broadcasting solutions that have so far failed to really take off.
ABC’s led the field in IP-based TV solutions with its Web-based iView catchup TV service, and last week launched an iPad version of the iView service. iPhone and Android versions are likely additions, although no timeline is promised. The application itself delivers smooth video playback across the iPad’s screen, and even on a moderate broadband connection I hit no real playback problems. The range of programs is naturally limited to the stuff that the ABC broadcasts, but there’s a wide library to pick from.
Unlike many of the stabs at mobile television of years gone past, the iView service simply uses the same internet protocols as your other internet applications (which is why it’s IPTV), so as long as your net connection stays up, so does your stream of Bananas In Pyjamas, or whatever suits your tastes. IPTV is slowly making its way worldwide as a way to deliver television services, especially as the quality of our internet connections improves. The UK equivalent of the ABC, the BBC, has announced plans to bring its iPlayer (which uses a similar technology platform to iView) to international viewers sometime next year on a subscription basis.
There are some catches for what we’ve got right now. The iView iPad application won’t run over 3G as yet, so you’re still stuck using it only in places where you have WiFi. Like many coffee shops, McDonald’s and your own home or office. Where, the thought strikes me, you’re normally sitting down and not getting all that fit.
Perhaps the couch potato isn’t quite dead yet.