Consumers pay for experiences, not technology. As a result, the hallmark of innovation in the Internet age has been the delivery of new, compelling experiences that have either succeeded wildly, failed epically, or something in between. In many cases, technology choices are not a strategic matter, merely a practical one. Businesses choose what they need from what’s available, and innovate on the experience itself. The result is debilitating fragmentation which relegates most new Internet experiences to a browser running on a PC. “Smart TVs” and other consumer electronics devices have a hard time keeping up with advances in the Internet because they do not have persistent storage where updates can be stored, nor are they anywhere nearly as powerful or general purpose as a browser running on a PC with a hard disk.

The Internet is media rich, with streaming media surrounding us in the form of paid-for content, interactive advertisements and eye-catching graphical user interfaces. Much of this streaming media must be protected against piracy, adding yet another dimension of complexity and fragmentation. Video streaming sites, such as Netflix, Vudu and Hulu, center their mainline business on delivering protected, premium content. However, the fragmentation described above applies every bit as much to this whole space of streaming media as to any other, or perhaps more so. While these and other premium video streaming sites deliver protected, high quality content, the underlying technology choices differ, meaning that no one player can play content from any more than one particular site. The player app is co-developed with the service. Think of how ludicrous it would be if you had to buy a new TV for every television station you wanted to watch. Yet that is exactly the world in which we live. If your smart TV does not include support for that hot new streaming site, for example, you have to buy a box that does and plug it in.

Now, quite suddenly, the planets are aligning, and convergence seems at hand. You can call it convergence, but it is really a consolidation. As a frenzy of new services are launching across the globe, they are doing so with fewer and fewer differences in underlying technology. For new services going forward, the technology choices are now quite simple: Common File Format (CFF) for the container, Common Encryption (CENC) for protection, Marlin for the DRM, and MPEG DASH for streaming. Download delivery of the protected file can be done via standard internet download, file sharing such as iCloud or DropBox, USB stick or even email if the file is not too big. The choice of CFF, CENC, Marlin and DASH as your publishing and delivery suite is consistent with how the major Studios are publishing their content, consistent with the UltraViolet consortium, consistent with HbbTV and the growing list of service providers adopting it, and consistent with other prevailing trends across the globe. These technologies, CFF, CENC, MPEG-DASH and Marlin, are developed and maintained in open consortia, assuring transparency, adaptability and longevity. Even more welcome is availability of a mature set of tools that support deployment.

Are we at the stage where one universal player can play content from any streaming media or download web site? Stay tuned.