Sony UK's CEO Steve Dowdle has outlined his reservations over the BBC's Project Canvas, confessing that he feels the UK focus could ultimately render the entire IPTV venture unsuccessful.

Speaking at the Intellect Consumer Electronics conference, Dowdle insisted that Project Canvas is a good thing but issued strong reservations, pointing to the fact that UK television makes up just four per cent of the global market, and that a proprietary set of 'island' standards in IPTV will prove counter-productive.

"I appreciate, in a way, why the BBC has got frustrated, how we had Project Kangaroo moving into Canvas, and... that they are saying we can't keep doing different things for different brands because there are only so many engineers to go around," said Dowdle.

"The issue at the moment is that, while there isn't a simple standard, commercial beasts that we are, we will all go and do our own thing."

Issues

"Let me just explain some of the issues that I believe there are from some of the global manufacturers in this area," he added.

"...on a global scale the UK represents four per cent of the market, so although I obviously think that the UK is very important, on a global scale there are many other things going on in the world.

"Decisions that are being made now are having a large impact on what we are going to do in the next 10 years.

"The options are either a standards based open platform - like Canvas - or horizontal market open standards .

"[With Canvas] we are limited to boxes which frankly may engage or may not; the BBC or other terrestrial [content providers] may say 'actually I can't afford to do it with all of you so I'm picking you or you.

"It's very UK specific and that will drive up price. It's good for broadcasters, but for manufacturers, retailers and customers I'm not so sure."

Horizontal standards

Dowdle believes that his second option – a more horizontal and global standard – is a better option, adding: "The opportunity we have in IPTV is that, if we have a worldwide standard, economies of scale and plethora products will generate lower prices.

"Plus I think the market is bigger which means a bigger audience potential and more importantly a better return on investment. I think that makes sense.

"Of course there is the Open IPTV forum, so it's not as if we didn't think about this as an industry some time ago, but the bigger it becomes the slower it becomes, I accept that. But they are focusing on truly open standards."

Faint praise?

Dowdle reiterated that he was not anti-Project Canvas, stating: "First and foremost Canvas is actually a good thing.

"Also, what the BBC are doing in terms of listening to the industry is well done and I think we should applaud them for that, but I think we still have some way to go. And I think, for me, we are in danger of still creating confusion.

"We have to see how we can integrate into a world open standard and have that certainty that we can communicate to our consumers and drive opportunities.

"Consumers are desperate for IPTV. So I ask...are we going to make the same mistakes again?"