This morning, Sony had a big launch for their new PlayTV device (more on that later today) and an official launch for the iView service. The good news is that all those early issues we have with iView on the PS3 are going to get better.
First off - the controls. One of the first thing that struck me (and many of you) about the PS3's implementation of iView was that it was just a big-screen translation of the web interface, meaning you need to use the dualshock to manually drag a pointer around the screen to do anything. The Bluetooth remote doesn't even work. Both Sony and the ABC are aware of this restriction, and will be working to fix it in future versions. In order to make that possible, they need to throw a layer of HTML code over the top of the service, a process that takes time and money.
The service itself has just been optimised for viewing on a big screen, but all the content is exactly the same. They guys at the ABC are currently in the process of transitioning their video content from flash video to H.264 encoding (running at 600kbps), a process that should be completed by the end of the year. At the moment there are both formats on the iView platform and although the H.264 can still appear a little blocky at 50-odd inches, it's still a lot more fluid than the flash vids that are still up there.
At the moment, the ABC hasn't ruled out a HQ stream for people with higher bandwidths, but it's not something they're planning in the short term. Essentially, this launch on the PS3 is a trial – the ABC have big plans to diversify how people access their iView service (the move to H.264 is as much about getting iView onto platforms that don't support Flash as it is about smoother picture) and the PS3 is the first step in that diversification. There's no commercial arrangement with Sony on this one. The trial is set to run until the end of March next year, at which point they'll collate all the data and try and focus what works and what doesn't into an even better service.
As such, they plan on fixing issues like the UI and the backlight (if your PS3 is set to dim after a period of time to prevent burn-in on plasmas, the iView app doesn't override this) as time goes on. Also worth noting is that Sony are planning on using this as a learning experience as well, stating that they won't be launching any more IPTV services until after the iView trial is over come March next year.
One other cool thing - you can apparently stream iView to your PSP via Remote Play. Hopefully that'll work around any regional restrictions for international travellers too...
As the first real move from a desktop app to something you can watch on the TV, this is a good first step. But it's hard not to look forward to the inevitable developments that will take iView on the PS3 from good to fantastic. Hopefully it'll happen sooner than later...