Iacta, a supplier of casual online games, has opened a window on service providers' use of Google TV or other over-the-top platforms that could greatly simplify and lower the costs of delivering branded OTT services.
A central theme of middleware suppliers' development activities of late, as evidenced at the recent TelcoTV show in Las Vegas, has been support for offering OTT content as a complement to basic IPTV or cable or even as a supplement to traditional subscription services in instances where SPs don't offer TV service (see related story, p. 8). In this case, the Iacta demonstration of its application running as an operator-branded value add on Google TV represented what could be an even cheaper and simpler way of gaining recognition in the OTT space.
Iacta, a long-time producer of co-branded casual games and interactive television applications for SPs, demonstrated its service working on a Google TV-enabled Sony television at the Las Vegas conference. The user-interface on the Google TV version of the Iacta Games4TV service is identical to what it would be on an SP TV service, so that, even though it is on a Google TV-enabled device, it looks like an operator-provided service.
Porting of the gaming service to a Web-enabled device harkens back to Iacta's early days as a developer for Microsoft's WebTV offering. The firm's 16 years of experience pre-dates broadband, which meant its developers had to hone their skills producing interactive applications for thin clients served through low-bandwidth, dial-up connections.
Since then Iacta has operated as both an independent service and a co-branded offering for operators such as Skylight Healthcare Systems and MTS Allstream. SPs either offer Games4TV as a stand-alone service or bundle it in a service tier. Iacta CEO Laura Buddine says the offering provides an "opportunity for the SP to make their service local."
She says Iacta's experience as a service provider with their Games4TV online service gives them feedback directly from consumers of their interactive games that they apply to improve their service. Iacta has had success developing interactive games that appeal to an older demographic. They have learned that casual games, such as Texas Hold'em and Soduko, do well with this market.
The market for casual games on the Internet is huge, with more than 200 million people at all age levels regularly engaged, according to the Casual Games Association. Companies such as Iacta and Accedo Broadband allow SPs to tap into this market, as well as provide a service that integrates well into social media platforms.
Buddine says the porting of the gaming service onto Google TV represents a great opportunity for SPs to bring the Internet to a constituency that otherwise might not subscribe to broadband. She suggests operators could bundle Google TV-enabled devices along with a selection of managed services such as Games4TV to provide a value-added OTT offering with minimal upfront investment.
The idea of bundling a device, such as a PC or media player, to broaden the appeal of broadband is not a new one, as evidenced by services on offer from AT%26T, Verizon and Frontier. Dish Network's recent move to bundle the Logitech Revue with the SP's DVR for $4 per month may be a precursor to future Google TV offerings where SPs provide an integrated offering of OTT, on-demand and linear television (see October issue, p. 1).
It also suggests a supplier offering a very thin client middleware optimized for aggregating apps exclusively for SPs in the Google TV environment could expedite time to market for branded OTT services as well as lower the costs. This approach would contrast with offerings from middleware suppliers such as Endavo, Minvera Networks, Skitter.TV and Verismo Networks that represent alternative ways to integrate OTT content.
Maybe the most revolutionary thing about what Iacta demonstrated with Google TV is how quickly the firm developed this offering. With a few code modifications, Iacta substituted up/down, left/right, directional movements so that its games perform the same on Google TV as they do with other middleware platforms.
Iacta has a great deal of experience integrating into different IPTV platforms, including those supplied by ANT Galio, Espial, Minvera Networks, Microsoft Mediaroom, Motorola, Nokia Siemens Networks and Oregan Networks. In the past, porting to different middleware platforms has been a time consuming effort, but as platforms tend to converge around open standards, porting should become easier and less time-consuming.
Iacta took only a few weeks of part-time work to port the gaming platform to Google TV and its WebKit-based browser, Buddine says. The open-source WebKit engine, which enabled the rapid porting of their service, is "a triumph of open-source software and open standards over proprietary, closed systems," she adds.