If you are a Verizon FiOS customer, you just got a nice surprise—YouTube and Internet radio now come straight to your television. Now instead of sitting on the couch surfing YouTube videos on your laptop, you can sit on the couch and surf YouTube videos on your TV. Which is a much better experience for anyone with a decent-sized HD television set.
The new added service is free—assuming you're already a subscriber to Verizon FiOS service. Sadly, I am not among this group, but not for a lack of trying. Verizon just doesn't have my local market ready for FiOS yet. When they do, I will be among the first to kick the tires on it.
The set-top box you use as a Verizon FiOS customer apparently needs a software update in order for you to gain access to the new YouTube and Internet radio features—but if you have a computer at home you can download the software you need pretty easily… unless you have a Mac. Verizon says Mac customers will also get the same perk, but will have to wait a bit longer.
There is one huge downside to this much-trumpeted offering: You have to leave your computer on. Verizon claims that the YouTube service needs some pre-transcoding work that requires customers to leave their PC on—and running the Verizon Media Manager software—to be able to make use of the service.
Now, maybe it's not a big deal to people who own a desktop… or people who are accustomed to leaving their computer on all the time. But it seems a little weird to tell me that you can free me from having to use my computer to access YouTube videos, but only if I keep that computer handy… and turned on… and running a special software. Pretty soon it begins to sound like the service is more of a hassle than a bonus.
Verizon plans to phase out the need for customers' computers to stay turned on—and even to let customers get the new features by bypassing the set-top box. It's just not quite there yet.
I'm not sure it's such a great idea to announce a new service that is, at least initially, so limiting—particularly when there are plans to eventually improve the service by removing the things that make it limiting right now. And yet, Verizon clearly didn't want to be left behind by all the other companies offering ways for consumers to begin integrating their online favorites with their television.
It's hard to ignore the shift toward giving users more and more ways to find their favorite online content. The Internet and your television are on a collision course—the question isn't "if," but "when.” But even as Verizon's announcement illustrates where the industry is headed, its startling limitations also serve as a reminder of how far we still have to go before it's a reality.