Mautilus on Smart TV

28. February 2013

Interview with Petr Mazanec on Smart TV development in the Czech Republic. The article was published by e15.cz, a Business Czech Portal on date 28.2.2013. You can read Mazanec's thoughs on e15.cz web site.

In Brno are created the world's major applications for Smart TVs

Somewhat they missed the rise of dominant mobile platforms iOS and Android, saying in their own words. Even if they were able to change it and among their customers in this area are names such as ABB, Barum, Czech Radio, CME, Continental, Nokia, T-Mobile and Siemens they believe that they will not repeat the same mistake in the case of applications for Smart TVs. So from the company Mautilus based in Brno migrate applications to important customers around the world. "We missed a little bit the boom of the iPhone and Android and with TVs we decided to be there right from the beginning," says in an interview for E15.cz Petr Mazanec, the technological director of Mautilus. Together with colleagues he was for a long time developing for Symbian, which is nowadays practically dead, but today are 9 from 25 developers engaged in creating applications for Smart TVs. The Company from Brno is starting really soon with business in applications for a new generation of Televisions. About 4 companies are dealing with similar projects in the Czech Republic, but this activity is not the main source of income for most of them. Mautilus on the other hand focused on the important and big customers from all over the world and the income from applications for Smart TVs already makes up half of its total revenue.

Olympic applications and other

Mautilus just last year created 15 large TV apps and the majority of them was for foreign clients. "Unfortunately about most of the clients we can not talk because they do not wish so. We are such a force in the background,"said Mazanec . Often they are large media houses, TVs and broadcasters companies and publishers in the UK, Canada, Spain, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and now also in Saudi Arabia and Mexico. "Reference can be used when we are dealing with the new customers, but not for publishing, " says Chief Technology of Mautilus. We can mention that his company has developed an application for the Olympic Games. On the Czech market are not so many opportunities now because according to the Mazanec words "it is not so far and the number of Smart TVs between users is still low." His company, however, is working on developing an application for Voyou CME Group (owner Nova TV) and begins to cooperate with the Czech Radio. For domestic public radio is arising a TV application associated with the planned station for children. For the most part it will be a simple game and puns, which is one of the application areas that appear on smart TVs frequently. More popular becoming programs which do not cover the whole screen but only part of it. This allows displaying the accompanying program, such as news reporting or sports results and so on. By far the most widely used applications are all sorts of online video store similar to Voyou from TV Nova, which are plenty worldwide. "The biggest contracting authority applications for Smart TV are clearly providers of video content," says Mazanec. These activities and on-demand content have different business models but according to Mazanec the problem is in small quantities and low attractiveness of offered titles.

No millions of users so far

The chance to take attention on the big screens that form the centre of most households see also the traditional media. "We are already preparing two large projects in this area," notices Mazanec. As an example application shows the BBC app that can inform about news in several different ways. Firms with a new kind of televisions are often more experimenting. Such applications that allow searching of transport connections appear and an interesting project launched a large real estate agency. The application was launched on Smart TV screens at all company branches and the customers while waiting to pass through could choose from the extensive catalogue of real estate. Selected homes-offers could be downloaded directly to a mobile phone or tablet. Conversely calls on Skype and other VoIP services are still not so popular. "This requires a camera and microphone, and often a keyboard. It is a supplement that few people buy with the television," said Mazanec. Here is much more chance for Xbox and Kinect from Microsoft, where everything needed is built in. Number of consumers of TV applications is not yet definitely millions or up to ten million. "Users of our individual applications are rather tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands," counts owner of Mautilus. "This is mainly due to the size of the market. For example, when the application of our client in the UK will test 30,000 people, it is for him a huge number and the provider is very satisfied." Number of end users thus far not attracts developers who want to create their own Smart TV programs. Most of the business revolves more around custom manufacturing. But it is not only because of the size of the market, but also because of relatively very large barriers.

A huge number of platforms

Unfortunately on market are plenty of platforms, each of them is relatively important (Samsung SmartTV, LG NetCast, Philips NetTV, Sharp Aquos, Panasonic Viera, Sony Bravia, VESTEL, etc.). And if a developer wants to target at least on the most important platforms he must have the devices for testing the applications. "We have dozens of different televisions in the office and we must constantly watch the new series and purchase them," says Mazanec. "And when you have several developers, it's quite a big number of screens." Primary platform for Mautilus is SmartTV from Samsung, which currently has the largest part on the world market and is the biggest concern. Each developer must have on the table at least 1 or 2 TVs from this company. Above that the new series may not be fully compatible with older ones, so it is necessary constantly to test the applications and all to follow. After Samsung it is the most important LG followed by Philips, Sony and Panasonic. To these traditional TV manufacturers are joining in other platforms such as Boxee Box or Google TV, which is already very broad portfolio of devices on which you can create an application. "Number of platform is really high, but the fragmentation is not so painful because most of the platforms use the same programming language and if you develop application on one platform, it can be relatively easily and within reasonable time transferred on the other," said Mazanec. "I do not think that with Smart TVs is the situation worse than with mobiles. They have fewer platforms, but each one is completely different," adds Mazanec to the topic.

For TVs is in his opinion bigger problem with testing and approving each application in "app stores" than with the actual code moving between platforms. TV manufacturers like LG and Philips stands behind the initiative of Smart TV Alliance, which seeks to establish standards between individuals ecosystems. "To a certain point can other manufactures fight against Samsung, which has a huge impact and the largest share in televisions," said Mazanec. To build the standards is also trying Nordic Opera that makes possible to transfer the applications. In Mautilus expecting that maybe this year will also be possible to create programs for the Apple TV and Roku. Big influence has also Xbox 360. "If someone wants from us a console application, is firstly interested in Xbox," Mazanec confirms the strong role of Microsoft in the living rooms. Even though the business with TV applications is rather at the beginning, its role is likely to grow. For example Cisco in his study argues that a large screen becomes large access point and that the difference between the computer and television will somehow disappear. Therefore in Brno they are trying to recruit new developers. It's not easy because even if it is developing in the advanced JavaScript, many people know the language only from web development and Mautilus must teach the new employees. "We thought that in Brno would not be a problem to find this people, because there are good quality IT universities, but it is a problem," said Mazanec. The company has therefore also been looking for capable people in Spain, Italy and other countries.