“As a frustrated user of Comcast’s Soviet-era on-screen navigation, I can only cheer on any competitive offering, in the hope that all boats will rise,” Paul Kapustka, deftly using deliciously cruel words, sums up the rage and feelings of many of the cable company customers.
But he does bring up an important issue: the critical role user experience will have in consumption of triple play services, that are suppose to line the coffers of carriers. User Interface is one of the most overlooked aspects of triple play.
A set-top box of today (and tomorrow) is a virtual Pandora’s box: video on demand, on screen caller ID, digital video recorder and hundreds of television channels. Adding web content to the mix is only going to pose more challenges. As carriers -cable & telcos- offer a wide array of services over their pipes, they will have to work hard to simplify the end-consumption experience.
As iPod has shown us, average folks will embrace complex technologies if they are made simple and easy to use. Given the track record of carriers – both cable and telecoms – a quiet sigh does escape our lips. That doesn’t mean that there is hope.
We are all waiting with baited breath for TiVo to be grafted onto Comcast’s set-top boxes, hoping that anything will be an improvement over the current offering. There are some US cable operators (like the ones offering Moxi set-top boxes) that do have a decent user interface that helps the TV watching public navigate through complex choices.
Some telcos seem to have realized this, and putting some serious effort into their UI. For example, Verizon’s FiOS TV. Paul seems to like the limited edition release (available in Fort Wayne, Indiana now, but available as a software update for others later this summer) of the new UI for its FiOS TV media guide.
It compares favorably with AT&T’s HomeZone interface. AT&T’s U-Verse, in comparison seems to be tortured.
The ability to simplify the UI will remain a challenge and will become even more acute as customers get used to the simpler experiences, such as the one offered on AppleTV.
PS: If you have seen a UI that impresses you, and would like to share it with us, email us at info at gigaom dot com.