CAIRO: ConnectmeTV, a new media hub and service designed for both the masses and high-end Egyptian market, launched Tuesday at the 14th annual Cairo ICT.
A panel of media experts discussed the new product’s applications and contextualized it within the environment of Egyptian media.
Defined as “a media hub that acts as a hi-definition satellite receiver, a media center with the capabilities of a computer and the interactivity of the internet, all controlled by one remote control by the VP of Sales Fadi Jundi, ConnectmeTV aims to target all ages and all users, widening choices and knowledge available even for those with little computer experience or unable to read.
In the words of ConnectmeTV’s CEO Ahmed Metwally, “One of the main barriers to development is access to information and knowledge. A lot of people don’t read English, they don’t know how to use a computer, or even read and write, but everyone knows how to use a remote control. That’s our core premise, to start with what the users know.
Building on the Egyptian statistic that 300,000 new satellite dishes are bought each month in comparison to only 1,500 PC’s, ConnectmeTV seeks to bring internet capabilities to a device that almost every Egyptian household – 16 million out of 19 million – already possesses: a TV equipped with a satellite dish.
“We believe we’re starting a revolution with this, Jundi laughed, “this will reach the masses. What has been hindering broadband growth is users, now they can plug in a wired line or wireless or 3G, connect by any means possible. The beauty of the device is it doesn’t require additional investment in infrastructure. It’s not broadcasting channels on the internet. so it’s usable even over a dial-up.
Metwally explained, “Regardless of the source they’re receiving, they manage it the way they would browse TV channels.
ConnectmeTV’s satellite programming allows users to search for shows by name or category, to pause or rewind, and is set to record a program even if its timeslot changes.
Using a USB or bluetooth connection, the TV can display images from a camera or mobile; a Party Setting allows a visual slideshow while streaming XM radio as well as navigating through the rest of the system.
Although intended to appeal to a consumer looking for entertainment, ConnectmeTV comes equipped to serve as a resource for public service announcements, health warnings, child and adult education, even bill-pay.
“People who wouldn’t buy something as an educational tool will buy this for entertainment, and might then be more open to using the educational aspects, Metwally pointed out.
As Jundi demonstrated the other services offered, he made it clear that ConnectmeTV intends to reach more than the mass market. “We’re already talking with hotel chains about distribution; the remote control brought up hospitality features to allow room service or spa reservations, as well as wake up, pick up and luggage services.
For home use, ConnectmeTV offers restaurant reservations and food ordering services, games, e-learning for school children and e-trading for keeping on top of stock options: a device aimed to target, or create, the ultimate couch potato.
“You don’t have to be literate, you just have to know up down, left and right. We’re working on having someone operate the remote control for you, Jundi joked.
Asked about the similarities to the obese humans populating Disney’s sci-fi world of “Wall-E, Jundi chuckled, “Yes, Wall-E is the objective.
“The sky is the limit to what we’re offering with this platform, he went on, listing partnerships with brokerage firms for e-trading and the Ministry of Education for making school assignments and curricula available. The internet connectivity of the device allows public service announcements, for health or weather for example, to target specific at-risk locations rather than whole governorates.
Jundi calls Youssef Adnan, VP of engineering, the “mastermind behind the project that has occupied the ConnectmeTV team since 2007. A high-end version of ConnectmeTV should be available for about LE 3,500 within the next three months, but eventually should be available via an installment system, with customers owing less than LE 50 a month to pay off LE 1,300.
The panel of ICT experts included Metwally as well as Shaden Mohamed, senior account strategist for MENA Google. She emphasized that traditional media forms, like television, must learn from new media how to interact with users, as users interact with each other, pointing to the popularity of social networking sites like Facebook.
She and Metwally both addressed the debate over content, of “how to incentivize a content producer to create high quality work while accommodating users’ demand for large amounts of cheap or free content.
Metwally described youtube’s limited subscription programs as a possible solution, while Mohamed emphasized the importance of a legal system that protects intellectual property.
The panel also featured Mostafa Kamel, general manager of Technologies Link online, Sherif Iskander, executive manager of online services for Rotana, Mohamed El Nawawy, VP and chief strategy officer of Telecom Egypt and Tarek Khalifa, head of digital and IT services for Tarek Nour Holdings.