Several years ago, the Singapore government Media Development Authority (MDA) and Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) put out a joint tender, seeking a vendor to create a universal set top box. The project was called NIMS, which stands for Next-generation Interactive Multimedia application and Service.
For a variety of reasons, the project never succeeded. But it is of interest to note of the original tender outlining the specifications of a universal set top box and the vast amount of thought and work that went into the original project.
So why did it fail?
Alfred Siew of Techgoodnu made a compelling case explaining why a universal set top box in Singapore was a “fantasy piece of equipment” and unpractical.
Thus it’s a good thing that Singapore’s indulgence of a common set-top box is over. It’s really a fantasy piece of equipment that would not have done much to make the market more competitive and which would have shown a regulatory zeal that exceeded practical considerations.
A member of the Hardware Zone Forum speculated that the one of the reasons for the projects failure, aside from “biting off more than they could chew”, was because the new Cross-Carriage act eliminated the problem of needing multiple set-top boxes:
If cluttering one’s home with multiple set-top boxes is a problem, then the problem is solved with the cross-carriage rule. And the universal set-top box project – dubbed Next-Generation Interactive Multimedia, Applications and Services (Nims) – would cease to matter. But Nims also had other goals – so many, they proved impossible to fulfil.
Of course, this well written post was published last year, before the SingTel’s reluctance to practice the cross-carriage act and provide StarHub with EPL content.
But credit has to be given to the IDA and MDA for attempting such a big project, which solves many problems for Singapore television content consumers. They were ambitious in the breadth and depth of specifications they put forward. And it didn’t help that there exists such a competitive environment between the primary TV Operators, who were the players most capable of delivering on such a project.
Say Hello to Bhaalu, Singapore’s new Universal Set-Top Box. Bhaalu does not adhere to all of the government specs, but it comes close. Most importantly, bhaalu delivers on what the consumers need most, rather than what the government or existing Telco’s need.
What do consumers need? 1.) Super easy intuitive relaxing and enjoyful navigation through TV content. 2.) One set-top box that they can use to watch ALL of their TV, regardless if it is MediaCorp FTA, StarHub Cable TV or SingTel Mio TV. 3.) One device that records and time-shifts ALL of their TV, going back in time for up to 3 MONTHS, so you never miss your favourite TV shows ever again, and 4.) TV Everywhere capabilities, to watch your channels where-ever you are located, on most any mobile device, at any time.
Bhaalu is the future of television in Singapore, and the future has arrived.