Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Verizon and Comcast compete to be the video gatekeepers of the future.

Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, Verizon, Comcast and others are investing vigorously to become the content gatekeepers of the future.

As many of you know, my posts tend to be centered around the evolving world of streaming video & television. The pace of change, acquisitions and announcements in this space have accelerated in 2014 as the leading media companies begin to retool to better service changing consumer preferences. Over the long weekend I had the opportunity to analyze some of these changes and consider what consumers should expect in the near future in regards to digital services and video in particular.

The most important observation I determined is that neither content or device will be “king”. Smart Ecosystems will be. Let me unpack that a bit. Apple & Google at their recent developer conferences outlined 2 very similar visions for the future of device interaction centered around the presence of their respective operating systems Apple’s (IOS/MacOS), Google’s (Android/ChromeOS). While announcing its Fire Phone, Amazon also outlined a series of FireOS features only available to participants within its developing ecosystem. Microsoft, Samsung, LG and Sony are building their own ecosystems utilizing their own mobile software while simultaneously licensing Android.

As the digital media market evolves consumers are being encouraged to choose a single ecosystem for all of their digital interactions anchored by their choice of smartphone. App developers and content companies are being asked to develop unique experiences for consumers based on the operating environment.

Below are a few of the services now linked to what I’ve begun calling smart ecosystems.

1. App Stores

2. App Notifications – including Information Cards

3. Cloud Storage Services

4. Voice Search & Commands, Image Search (Amazon), Motion Control (Microsoft)

5. Content Casting

6. Across Device Presence Awareness & Content Sharing

7. Backend capabilities like DRM, Video Playback & Software Development Languages

What does the rise of these smart ecosystems mean to content companies and consumers?

First and most importantly – In order to build and manage a content businesses companies now need to pay particular attention to the unique capabilities of each ecosystem. Software Development teams will have to become familiar with the API & SDK libraries of each of these providers. As service offerings within the ecosystems begin to differentiate; developers and business leaders must evaluate what features to deploy with their apps and the business benefits of doing so.

Browser based experiences are on the decline. Browser based internet experiences dominated desktop computing and found some footing on smart phones. With the rising complexity of involved in building experiences for the smart ecosystems we should expect more investment in Apps that utilize the unique features mentioned above.

The smartphone will continue to be our digital information hub – but will not dominate content consumption and interaction in the future. Mobile operating systems are being translated to power a growing menu of devices. These devices each offer a unique opportunity to ease the burden of interacting with digital information for the consumer. Tablets, televisions, video game consoles, watches, health monitoring devices, home monitoring devices, and cars are becoming smart. Each offering a newer more compelling view into digital information and experiences previously only available on our smart phones.

Video holds a special place within the smart ecosystem because of its ability to attract consumer attention and its value to advertisers. Video content is the most compelling form of digital information and source of entertainment. Audio content is considered second. The smart ecosystem providers are aware of videos special status and are utilizing their video franchises to influence our device choices.

Finally, building video applications & experiences across devices no longer stands as media’s main challenge; building these experiences across ecosystems now takes precedence. Building Apps and mobile experiences for Android and IOS devices have defined the last 3 years of video based media investment. The invention of the iPad tablet and consumer adoption of the tablets being the key motivator. In the coming year(s) electronic device makers intend to invest in smart televisions and connected-tv devices with the intention of expanding on the consumers appetite for digitally delivered video.

Delivering video to Smart-TV’s represents a larger more complex business opportunity than tablet video or smartphone video and will require content owners to reconsider current investments. Each smart ecosystem provider offers a unique vision and set of tools to attract audience and better monetize video. With a bit of experimentation content companies may find unique opportunities in one ecosystem that may be lacking in another.

App developers will face native competition from the smart ecosystem providers who view video delivery services as a growth opportunity for their device and operating system franchises. App developers will compete with Youtube and Google Play on Android; iTunes on Apple devices, XBox Live on Microsoft devices, and Prime on Amazon devices. These native services will surely push the envelop when it comes to utilizing the unique features of their respective operating systems. The smart ecosystem providers are also well positioned to earn revenue from the paid App downloads & inApp purchases of third party apps.

These are the new gatekeepers for digital media. Traditional video services like those provided by your cable company have taken notice and plan to offer compelling smart ecosystems of their own. (I plan to elaborate on this in a future post).

As investments in digital video technologies continue to scale we should all expect these new smart ecosystem providers to take the lead. With their strong consumer brands, device acceptance, existing video & video-game distribution platforms, operating system dominance, and desire to intelligently surface all forms of digital entertainment to all consumers; these ecosystem providers have positioned themselves as gatekeepers for the future of all media.

Guest Post by: Clive Henry