You have always watched the latest pizza or cola ad on the telly. Now make the idiot box do something intelligent: Like placing home delivery orders.
In the constant churn that the gizmo world witnesses, a new technology has been thrown up that actually makes the television set a bit more useful than reducing people to mere couch potatoes.
One can use it to get provisions delivered at home, receive calls, take educational courses, and execute a bulk of work that an internet-connected personal computer is capable of: surfing and searching data.
And all this, apart from watching your favourite programmes broadcast digitally.
The new technology, based on IPTV, is a system where a digital television service is delivered using internet protocol over a network infrastructure or broadband connection.
Simply put, IPTV portends to change the way we live.
Said Vijay Yadav, managing director of UT Starcom, a leading networking solutions provider: "In the coming three-four years, IPTV will replace everything from your corner table."
"The power of IPTV is phenomenal," Yadav told IANS, adding: "It's not just about watching one's favourite show at a convenient time. It's about the kind of inter-activity it enables while watching TV."
The service both amazes and galls subscribers. Said Salman Khan, a management student and Airtel IPTV user: "It's really fantastic. Simply amazing. DTH services stand nowhere."
At the same time, Khan admitted, IPTV is not free of problems. "Broadcast stops for minutes before it resumes. It's irritating. It makes sense only if you want to bundle internet and television services."
Currently, IPTV in India is at its nascent stage. "However, considering a service that has been launched as recently as last year, it has done fairly well," Yadav contended.
UT Starcom, which also provides IPTV solutions besides a host of services, has an installed capacity for about half a million IPTV users in the country. "We expect about 5-10 million subscribers in the next three years," Yadav said.
Installing IPTV is not inexpensive; subscribers need to cough up about Rs.4,000 for a set-top box and the tariff plan. Apart from this, a modem and broadband connection for receiving are needed and, if the subscriber wants an interactive TV, an extra camera.
The investments involved, coupled with low awareness, have kept a lid on the IPTV spreading; services are available in about 25 cities only with just a few players in the fray.
Prominent service providers include state-run telecom operators Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd, private sector biggy Bharti Airtel and smaller players like Goa Broadband.
On its part, Bharti concedes it would go slow with IPTV as it's yet to pick up.
"We will initially launch the service in the metros as it's focused on urban customers. Based on the feedback, we will move to other cities," Bharti Airtel's spoke person told IANS.
Added Jaideep Ghosh, head of communications at global consultancy KPMG: "There is a big correlation between broadband penetration and IPTV awareness. Till broadband penetration increases, IPTV will remain a niche segment only."
According to KPMG, India will have about 128 million television viewers in 2010, out of which only seven million are expected to be IPTV subscribers.
"Seeing the current growth, IPTV will not capture more than 10 percent of the market share," Ghosh predicted.
(Pupul Dutta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)