After crash, thoughts on the meaning of TV Everywhere

My 7-year-old desktop PC crashed Friday. This was no fender-bender, boot-it-clean-it-and-it-will-return-to-operating-mode crash. This was a 20-car fog-on-the-freeway pileup with bodies all over the place. Windows wouldn't start--and even the self-diagnostics told me that it was a hopeless case.

Fortunately I am not one to be deterred when my work is on a machine. I finagled (that's a technical term) and did my best to impersonate the help desk a self-employed freelance writer doesn't have and somehow managed to make it come back to life--for however long that might be.

The scare led me to the local office supply store, where they had a limited display of the latest and greatest of desktop PCs (yes, they still make 'em). The helpful saleswoman asked what I needed and to what use I would put a new unit.

"Um, I need to be able to search the Internet and write stories," I said.

No movies, no online videos, no books, no pool, no pets. Just the basics, ma'am.

After giving me the look any troglodyte deserves, she recommended a cheap, fast model which, she promised, was on sale because Windows 7 is soon to be replace by Windows 8 (which, in my mind, is sure to arrive with more glitches than a Yugo).

I resisted the impulse buy for the moment, determined to make my unreliable machine, loaded as it is with relatively new and expensive non-transferrable Microsoft Office software, work, even if I had to go out and buy more chewing gum, staples and man's favorite tool, duct tape.

So, while I didn't get a new computer, I did start thinking about why and how I use a computer… and a tablet… and a smartphone. Coincidentally, this happened about the same time as I was writing about a YuMe-IPG Mediabrands study of how people use multiple video devices that concluded that screen size doesn't matter nearly as much as the content being shown and how long that content--in this case the unavoidable string of ads that preface the content--run on the device.

"Consumers tend to take the best screen available approach. While screen size matters in terms of creating excitement, the screen itself doesn't inherently play a role," Travis Hockersmith, YuMe's senior director of client strategy, told me.

Before the crash, that might not have made sense. Obviously, I believed if I couldn't watch something on my big screen HDTV, my second choice would be the 23-inch widescreen I have attached to my balky desktop PC. Now I know I use the best available screen. If I'm at the clubhouse and I have Wi-Fi and my neighbors are boring me, I whip out my tablet. If I'm waiting interminably for the doctor, I read books on my smartphone and maybe play games. I rarely watch video; the experience is just too lacking.

While I'm admittedly not a typical consumer, I must say that I agree with the survey: Screen size doesn't matter that much. It's nice and the TV is always best, but, like good real estate, viewing comes down to location, location, location.

For my money, that location rarely includes my residence, because once I'm there I have access to content on a TV and I don't need to fire up the desktop (if it starts), the laptop (if it's charged), the tablet or the smartphone to watch video. Thus, from now on when I think of TV Everywhere, I will think of TV everywhere but in my house.

Until, of course, another survey convinces me otherwise. --Jim

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