A couple of weeks ago, I had spoken of the Iridium satellite system and how its big plans of global communications suffered jolts. While its success may be questionable, I still remember it for its riveting advertising slogan, "Geography is history."
More than a decade later, the grand promise of Iridium is steadily gaining ground. The thought came to mind last week when Nikesh Arora, president, global sales and business development, at Google Inc, dropped by at Hindustan Times and painted a future in which people will surf the Net and customise their content on television by using a single software-based guide, making their own programming guide and picking and choosing what they want.
"Over time, distribution is segregating from content. In the past, it was all vertically integrated," he said.
To some extent, this is already happening on a smaller scale with the current direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasters offering hundreds of channels on the one hand and backing it up with video-on-demand. Increasingly, the on-demand part will gain currency, particularly if the Web becomes an alternative back-end for viewers through a single interface. Today, you can watch TV on your computer. The impending tomorrow will have the whole Web on your TV, more or less, with a mini-computer like remote.
Now, look at the other big trend that is already real. On social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, we are increasingly sharing Web links. HT is an Indian newspaper, but its content is now accessed worldwide, not necessarily by expatriate Indians but also by others.
The Internet increases two-way movement of content of nearly any kind. And so, when Australia played India in cricket matches or when the Commonwealth Games were held in New Delhi, Indians were also watching or reading content from Australian media, helped by those who shared these links.
The mix of anytime, anywhere content and social sharing of links are together set to revolutionise the way we watch videos, read news or articles or listen to music.
On Twitter now, there are people who simply choose some links supplied by those they follow and there is a software that automatically generates a personalised newspaper-like daily that they in turn share with others. This can be done through an application available at a site (http://paper.li).
Google may be announcing such a philosophy as part of its Google TV offering, but companies like Microsoft (which has its Windows Media Center) and open-source software firms and application developers are also refining and defining what I call the globalisation of content. The arrival of 3G connectivity can only accelerate this process further.