Sramana Mitra: Where do you think the car mobile interface will be in the middle of 2013?
Calvin Carter: Cars have a very long engineering cycle. You are starting to see interfaces that are completely different from anything you have ever seen before. CTIA and CES, for example. In the last two years I have seen an enormous number of car interfaces being driven by a mobile device. It does take time to get through that. We do some work in the auto industry, and our understanding is that it takes two to four years for something to eventually get to market, due to all the regulations, crash tests, and engineering in general. You are just starting to see it now.
In the next two to three years I believe we are going to see a significant number of cars come onto the market that have interfaces that are borrowing from or are based on the user interface characteristics – the gestures, for example, that we find in the mobile world. You have seen a few of those. Cadillac calls it the CUE. It is an early attempt. What Tesla is doing is even more interesting. It is a deeper attempt. I believe there are two buttons in the Tesla. One is the hazard button and the other one opens the glove compartment. It is a very different interface. They moved very far, and it is going to take a while for others to move that far.
SM: At a very basic level, can we assume that every car at this point is able to stream radio through Bluetooth?
CC: I would say every car is able to. But that didn’t stop the success of the app. Having Bluetooth in your car is a convenience of bringing the audio from your device into the stereo system. That is an iterative improvement. Even if you don’t have that, people are still streaming and listening to radio from the tiny speakers on their smartphones – or they are bringing an audio jack to plug in to their dashboards. That is what I do.
But these are add-ons. BMW has done a good job at this. Apps are talking to the onboard system inside the car. When you start looking at this mobile device as a supercomputer that you carry with you, then you start to say, “If you are bringing the supercomputer with you, maybe the things around you are just screens, sensors and input devices.”
Apple has done that with Apple TV. The Apple TV is $99. There is not a lot in there, but it is a phenomenal streaming device. It has some computing horsepower, but not a huge amount. When they decided to not fully open the platform but opening it by communicating and providing either a first or a second display for the device, all of the activity happens on the device. For example, you have a car racing game. That requires a lot of horsepower. The Apple TV essentially just has to stream the video and audio signals. So your iPhone is your game controller – you are tilting it back and forth – but you are looking at the TV. That all of a sudden starts to chip away at the necessity of high-expensive horsepower game consoles. A treadmill in the gym, for example, doesn’t have to have a very powerful computer, but it has to have the sensor data to push the information to the iPhone. Then the iPhone can become the thing that tracks all of your information, processing it, presenting it and storing it. There are lots of interesting opportunities when you start realizing that you are able to not put all the expensive hardware everywhere, because the user is already bringing it.
SM: Let’s take another few apps that you are proud of and that would similarly throw light on interesting trends and directions.
CC: Let’s talk about the Showtime app. An important part of our growth over time has been serving broadcasts and media brands, because they are early adopters of where consumers’ eyeballs go. Consumer eyeballs went to mobile devices and the ability to essentially turn a device into a TV. Then mobile has made another huge impact in what we call the second screen. You are watching TV on a TV and you have a mobile device with you at the same time. There is a statistic saying that 80 percent of people watching TV have a mobile device with them and they are doing something with it. There is an opportunity there to have deeper engagement. Second screen apps, like the one we built for Showtime, provide a deeper brand engagement and a deeper brand experience for their shows.
Let’s take a show like “Homeland.” It is a great show, and while you are watching it you can spark up the Showtime Showsync app, which uses some ACR capabilities. It is similar to Shazam, where it can listen to the audio signal, it can listen to what is going on around the iPad, in this case. It can then start to do fingerprint matching to say: “ I hear Showtime. I hear “Homeland.” It is season three, episode four. They are at the scene that is 40 minutes and 22 seconds into this episode.” Then it reaches out to the servers and starts to pull down information relevant to that episode. There is an entire deeper curated experience that you unlock by launching the show’s sync app, and usually within a few seconds you are now in this experience.
Different shows and broadcasters use second screens in different ways. We also produced a second screen experience for Bravo, which is a different type of experience. It is much more tied to social, sharing, and being in the moment. Showtime and Showsync are much more about getting deeper into the story, determining whether or not you can forecast or foresee what is around the bend. There are lots of twists and turns to the “Homeland” story. Adding that narrative either through deeper content, opinions, live polls, trivia, and additional content that complements what you are seeing on screen deepens the relationship with the brand and content. It is now providing two ways to experience that narrative.