Macrovision made a brace of new announcements today, with the company officially re-branding itself as Rovi and revealing its brand-new Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) called Liquid.
Although not much is known about 'Rovi' in the UK, the company is a US-based 'digital home entertainment experience' provider who owns the technology behind metadata aggregators such as the Gracenote database (as used in iTunes) and allmusic.com.
This abundance of programme, music and film data has meant that the company has had a foothold in content management, something which it hopes to use in its new EPG called Liquid.
A while back TechRadar was shown Neon, Rovi's initial foray into next-gen EPG technology, and while the system we showed touched on bringing TV programmes, web shows and user-generated content into one place, Liquid is said to take this a step further.
"Supported by Rovi's extensive collection of rich entertainment data and intelligent discovery technologies, as well as Rovi's experience in developing market leading program guides, the Liquid guide enables consumers to easily sift through the enormous amount of digital content available today," explains the press release.
"It builds upon the familiar user experience of the television guide to make it easy for consumers to find what they want, when they want it."
To delve a bit further into what Liquid is about TechRadar spoke to Corey Ferengul, Rovi's Executive Vice President, Product Management and Marketing, about the EPG and what it will mean to the average consumer.
While Neon dabbled with recommendation, improved user interface and access to other media – Liquid goes to the next step.
"Forget what you have thought about guides in the past," explained Ferengul. "TV guides have come to represent traditional television programming, but people's viewing habits have changed. They are looking at all types of different content, not just television channels, so we figure people needed a guide to all their entertainment."
So far so Project Canvas, but what Liquid does is bring together your home media as well as what is broadcast through traditional TV or through the web.
"While a normal EPG gives you your television programming and that's it, Liquid has a brand-new interface; we use screenshots, we can get more graphical, and we can also integrate other types of guides," notes Ferengul.
"One of these is the personal media guide. And the personal media guide finds the stuff you have in your house. So whether this is music or home movies, Liquid will discover it, find it and play it back on your TV.
"From a personal experience, I had a lot of people around my house on a Saturday and I just happened to have photographs on my PC to show them. The entire party gathered around the computer screen to look at the photos. And while our research has shown that people don't buy big-screen TVs to view photos, as soon as there is an easy way to do it, they do."
As for the differences between Liquid and Neon, Ferengul is keen to point out that Liquid is a step above: "Neon was a small portion of where we were with our EPG. There are two fundamental differences: in Neon, it was a separate toolkit that had to be integrated by our customers. It took additional effort on their part to get the guide. Liquid is fully integrated into the TV set.
"And now it is part of the same screen, instead of going on separate screens to view photos and music, these applications are built straight into the main screen.
"And when we build on partnerships, you will be able to send photos to other users through Liquid and share your media with them. So, it is a much richer user experience."
"The most important part of Liquid is about bringing internet content straight to the television," explained Ferengul.
"In the next couple of months, we will begin to rollout European partners for content. We are going to have the content come directly into the television. This means you will be able to search for a programme and see that this is where you get it on broadcast, on-demand, and where you can download. The consumer now has choice."
This is all very well but when are we likely to see Liquid in the UK? Ferengul is optimistic, explaining: "Late next year. We are working with a version of the product now, so we will work with manufacturers on this and tweak when we can – so you should see it 2010."
It's unconfirmed how you will get Liquid in the UK. Rovi told us that it's for TVs, but can be piped through both PVRs and set-top boxes. Current partners with Rovi at the moment include Sony and Panasonic, but it's not confirmed it they will utilise the Liquid EPG.
While Liquid is impressive to look at, assuming Project Canvas is supported by manufacturers, in the UK then Rovi will find the British market a difficult one to break. But the idea of IPTV nestling next to our home movies and broadcast TV channels is certainly an interesting one.
Find out more at www.rovicorp.com.
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