The mobile internet and catch-up TV services are the most successfully converged services, according to a new report from user experience research and design company Webcredible.
Services including iPlayer and 4oD have the potential to become some of the first truly successful multi-channel services, converged across the PC, TV and the mobile handset, says the report.
However, recent history is littered with failed attempts at convergence as companies often fail to think about two key important considerations.
Firstly, we use products in a social and physical environment and they need to fit into our context of use to be successful.
Secondly, the design of products has to take into account human factors and ergonomics.
There are hundreds of companies trying to roll out converged products and services, but what these companies must ask themselves is how will this benefit their customers?
Take for example the convergence of the internet onto TV screens. Satellite TV and cable companies have previously made several attempts to bring the internet into the living room and onto TV screens.
However, it’s worth considering that TV has a unique position in our home and normal takes centre place in our living rooms – one of the few communal places in the home and one that is better suited to a social environment. Many users don’t want to, either do they feel the need to, intrude that space.
Despite the internet not taking off onto our TV screens, PC’s are being used like TV’s and are replacing the small TV’s that teenagers used to have in their bedrooms.
A recent Redback Networks and YouGov poll found that nearly half of all UK residents who have an internet connection had watched video online.
Watching short clips on sites such as YouTube suits the interactivity and short attention span we normally have on the internet, according to the report.
Catch-up TV services have hit a chord with users and they now want even greater convergence, such as to be able to watch catch-up TV in their living rooms and on their actual TV sets.
However, most people don’t have the necessary equipment to connect their PC’s to their TV’s, or they simply don’t know how to.
Apple has tried to make this easier with their Apple TV product – but the product hasn’t managed to hit mainstream as yet.
The BBC is planning its own device to connect TV’s to the internet as we speak. Once a product emerges that does this successfully, watching internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Kangaroo will be watched in the living room – but Sky Plus, which allows users to pause, rewind and record live TV could over shadow the need for these services.
The mobile industry is also noted by the report as the most obvious target for convergence but also has the most examples of failed attempts.
The mobile internet first arrived in the form of the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) in 1999. The experience was staggeringly poor compared to what people were originally promised by operators – but the idea itself was very popular.
The mobile phone, as a platform for advertisers and other forms of media, is ideal as everyone has a phone on them at all times. However, according to the Office for National Statistics, fewer than one in five UK adults use their mobile phone to go online.
New offerings such as the Android and iPhone, could however prove to take the platform to the masses with bigger screens and mobile-friendly websites and partnerships with content providers.
In February last year, Google experienced 50 times more searches from the iPhone than from any other mobile phone.
In 2009, Webcredible predicts that mobile internet use will increase significantly in the short-term. However, the agency warns that the industry will only see success with websites that have been designed to be seen via a mobile phone as well as a PC.
The opportunities for convergence are quickly increasing with the new mobile operating systems and platforms emerging.
Convergence can bring benefits to users such as allowing them to create content in more situations and enable access whenever from wherever.
Abid Warsi, senior user experience consultant at Webcredible and author of the report, concludes, “In the increasingly ‘On-demand’ world we live in it seems that catch-up TV services offer the key to truly successful multi-channel convergence. Already very popular through the PC, many consumers would jump at the chance to be able to use these services through the TV as well, and with larger screen mobile devices like the iPhone now becoming more widespread, the potential is there for mobile too.
“If companies trying to make converged products or services want to avoid some of the previous mistakes, they’ll need to consider the context in which they’ll be used, take notice of what their users actually want and ensure they continuously involve users throughout the design process.”
A full copy of the report can be downloaded from http://www.webcredible.co.uk/screen-reality.
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