The really interesting part of the package is BT Vision which is IPTV or TV delivered over ADSL and is expected to be available in the Autumn. Details of the set top box and package of programmes are incredibly hazy but a few facts have been confirmed. Instead of a regular TV schedule BT intends to supply HDTV on demand, and therein lies a snag. The Vision system reserves up to 1.5Mbit/sec of your ADSL bandwidth for TV as soon as you turn the service on which is fine for SD TV but is inadequate for HDTV so BT will need to buffer half of the programme to ensure it streams seamlessly. In other words Only Fools and Horses will start 15 minutes after you hit the button while Lord Of The Rings wonâ€™t start until youâ€™ve finished a three course dinner with two wines, which isnâ€™t my idea of â€˜On demandâ€™. In the event that you choose the Directorâ€™s Cut you may well have time for cheese and biscuits to round things off.
The problem is the available bandwidth and while I have little doubt that BT Vision will be superb when we all have 24Mbit/sec ADSL that time is still some way off. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that TV over IP is a far better and more sensible method of delivering TV than doing it with satellites but it would seem that BT is jumping the gun with this technology as it is currently possible but not practical.
This isnâ€™t the first time weâ€™ve seen an overly-enthusiastic rush to thrust new technology on the buying public. Stretching my memory, back in 1998 Apple dumped the floppy drive from the iMac and when the buying public asked how they were supposed to move files from one machine to another the answer was to use email. These days thatâ€™s a perfectly sensible answer or, better yet, you can use a USB thumb drive but back in the day it was lunacy as USB drives didnâ€™t exist and Internet connections were slow clunky things that used a dial-up modem.
Then thereâ€™s the Intel Conroe Core 2 Duo processor which will be launched any day now, or rather, the chipsets for the new processors in the E63xx series. These processors use the LGA775 socket and are compatible with the current Intel 975X chipset, but the intention is that you choose the new 965 chipset which is paired with the new ICH8 Southbridge. This looks like a sensible piece of silicon which ups SATA support from four ports to six, dumps ACâ€™97 audio in favour of HD Audio and does away with Parallel ATA or IDE support. Um, hang on a minute; donâ€™t we need PATA for optical drives? And some people still use this creaking technology for hard drives, so it sounds as though Intel has rather jumped the gun here (that said, unless big companies like Intel, Apple or BT try to pull the rug out from under legacy technology it will be with us forever â€“ ed.).