Today, we are launching the first version of KontrolTV. It’s just the beginning and we have big plans for bringing it to your living room via your SmartTV, and into your hands via your SmartPhones and Tablets.
What is KontrolTV you say? Well if you have a few minutes, I’d like to tell you a story.
The story goes something like this:
Well, we aren’t exactly in the fame and fortune category yet, but this is essentially the story of MOVL. If you’ve ever started a company or have been involved in a startup, this story probably sounds very familiar.
So that great idea that started it all was really more about a user experience than a technology or an app. We took a look at what was happening with mobile, and where things were headed with TV, and it was obvious that the two should work together. The idea was more than just using your tablet to control your tv, or using your phone as a game controller. It’s really about utilizing both screens as different “views” of the same application.
More importantly, it’s about getting multiple people involved in a collaborative and social experience around the TV. This is the key ingredient.
So that prototype we built (in October 2010) was called “WeDraw”. It’s basically a Pictionary style game where any number of people can use their mobile device to participate. We used the TV app as the “game board”, and the mobile app had different views for each person depending on whether it was their turn or not. When it’s your turn, you get a secret word to draw that appears on your device. You draw the word with your finger, and the drawing appears on the TV in real time. Then everyone else tries to guess the word by typing it in from their device. The guesses show up on the TV in real time too. We built it like a game show, with irreverent voice over taunting everyone as the game progresses. We quickly learned that people loved this style of interaction. It was so much fun to watch people play together, to see their faces and hear them laugh while they played.
We took the game to CES 2011, and won $200k from Samsung in a promotional contest for their new SmartTVs. It was a great start for MOVL, and Samsung become a strategic partner for us. We made more apps using the same type of experience like PokerFun, and WeTeli. We also landed on Google’s radar and they have since been great at promoting MOVL and highlighting our apps on GoogleTV.
Sounds great, so what were the speed bumps? Well the biggest one is that the SmartTV market barely even existed. We all believed it would be big, but it’s certainly wasn’t then, and is just starting to take off now. Even worse was the fragmentation in terms of development platforms for SmartTV. Not to mention we built mobile companion apps for both iOS and Android. We wanted to bring our apps to all SmartTVs, but quickly realized it was gonna be really difficult, time consuming and costly.
Another challenge was getting people to realize they had a SmartTV. Once people understand what a SmartTV is, they usually don’t even know that they have one. And most people throw away their TV remote. While cord cutting may be happening, let’s face it, cable is still king, and most people use their cable remote and ditch the TV remote. But you need that TV remote to download your TV apps, by digging through buried menus of… well stuff.
As MOVL developed more apps, we starting noticing how difficult it was for users to switch between apps. These are multiscreen apps, so to get it running, you had to download an app to the tv, start it, download an app to your phone, and start it. Rinse/repeat for every new app. For us, we would have to create an iOS app, an Android app, and various versions of the TV app, and then submit each app to 4 different places.
This was all nuts. It ought to be easy to create an app once and distribute to multiple SmartTV platforms. People shouldn’t have to download an app to their TV. Heck, they shouldn’t even have to pick up their TV remote to use our apps.
So to solve all of this, we built the KontrolTV platform. It’s a development and publishing platform that gives developers the ability to easily create multiscreen apps for SmartTVs. It provides all the device connectivity, including the ability to launch the app on your TV directly from your mobile device.
The KontrolTV platform solves a lot of problems that are preventing SmartTVs and multiscreen apps from becoming mainstream. There’s only one app to get on your TV and mobile device. All the “experiences” that run within KontrolTV get loaded dynamically via the cloud, so there’s nothing to download. We also standardized on HTML5 for both TV and mobile apps, so there’s a consistent developer workflow.
We’ve partnered with the leading SmartTV manufacturers and over the next few months, KontrolTV will most likely show up on your TV.
Until KontrolTV is fully deployed to SmartTVs, we’ve made it work right on our site:Kontrol.TV All you have to do is download the iOS or Android app, and you can try it online. It’s just a taste of what’s to come and we are excited about the future of multiscreen apps.
CTO – MOVL