The War for Eyeballs Continues

Our issues are a bit slimmer this week, again, as we were very involved with the IBC show, which went over the weekend. Our IBC show report will be out in the middle of next week. In theory, we produce 48 issues per year, not 52, allowing us to miss a couple of weeks during the year when major shows are taking place. However, we managed to get weekly issues out this time while also attending IFA and IBC, so we’re on course for more than 48 this year.

One of the topics that I keep hearing about this week is the idea that what companies such as Google and Facebook are really competing for is your attention. That’s not news for long term readers of LDM or MDM. Our first reference to the concept of the ‘war for eyeballs’ goes back to 1996, when we reported from Comdex (Display Monitor Vol 3 #45). At that event, we reported that Andy Grove of Intel had said that the PC business was in ‘a war for eyeballs’. Grove said that PCs were now well established with consumers and that the PC business is competing with TV usage. Grove said that where the eyeballs went, the revenue followed. If consumers spent all their time watching TV, that’s where their money would go, and Intel needed the money so that it could continue to invest in its fabs and technology.

He also said in his keynote, quoted in that issue,

“Users want a life-like, interactive experience.” He continued, “Visual computing will become part of the PC, just as video has. Our business is not just about building and selling PCs. Our business is the delivery of information and life-like interactive experiences”. (I found a report on his keynote on YouTube, here.)

It could be argued that recent developments of the latest Nvidia RTX core in the Turing chip, combined with the latest HDR TVs and monitors are starting to get very, very close to this vision. It looks as though we are only going to get even closer.

As Grove pointed out in that talk, the time that humans have does not increase (although it could be argued that the time available in a lifetime is increasing). I must admit that it always amazes me how much TV is watched to use up those hours, these days. At the SES event at IBC, the company quoted data that indicated that UK viewers now watch 291 minutes of video and TV per day – amazing! (Having said that, I often have YouTube music videos going on my PC as I am working, so my hours probably add up if you include OTT – even if I don’t watch the screen much. If you want to capture me, you have to enter the war for eardrums!)

At the Comdex event in 1996, the big demo was of standard definition MPEG-2 video with Dolby Digital audio being decoded on an Intel processor – that was a big deal at the time. No 4K, no HDR, no surround sound and it was the only process running on the PC, full screen. These days, I can watch HD video while working without seeing any slowdown. Things have moved on, but it seems clear that TV companies continue to dominate the war for eyeballs. It’s intriguing to see how poor the ‘next generation’ 3D graphics were in 1996 (check the video at about 16:00 minutes in).

Now that Nvidia can supply a genuinely life-like interactive experience, will that change? I suspect not for the reason that was also discussed some years ago. TV is a lean back experience, while PC usage is generally a ‘lean forward’. Some of us may see ‘lean forward’ as relaxing, but most want to lean back.


The state of the art in graphics at Comdex 1996