IBC & SCTE: Start Your Jargon Engines!

AMSTERDAM — Nothing like back-to-back trade shows to kick in the jargon engines!

First up was IBC in Amsterdam last week; the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo hits Denver this week.

Three terms popped up with amusing regularity at IBC: “Workflow,” “cloud,” and “virtualization.” Translations follow.

Examples, from piles of notes: Workflows can be 4K, file-based, and complex. Workflows in production and distribution are changing because the video content lifecycle is changing, one IBC session aspired to explain. “Build a future-proof media production workflow,” another hawked.

Translation: A “workflow” is telco- and IT-speak for a business policy that needs to be teased out (with an API!) of its legacy (old fart) bindings, then recombined, as a spew of data recognizable by other spews of data (sister API!), to do its intention. Turn it on, turn it off. Encrypt it, decrypt it. Code it, transcode it, decode it.

“Cloud,” as it relates to the non-atmospheric, needs an immediate and explicitly silent sabbatical of an indeterminate length. We will happily contribute to that here.

Which brings us to “virtualization.” Always just like that, wrapped in quote marks on the page, and spoken with accompanying air squiggles.

Here’s what’s going on with “virtualization.” Everything in our digital lives that was purpose-built is at a brink. Depending on the point of view, the camera that is just a camera, nothing else, or the phone that is just a phone, nothing else, might be on the endangered species list. Why? Because it becomes a feature, and not just in your phone or tablet. It gets virtualized.

But, if your digital life is like mine, your phone’s camera is already better than your regular camera (which you think might be in the garage somewhere), and your phone’s phone is a pretty crappy experience.

So, in one sense, “virtualization” unleashes a potential software renaissance for the core workings of our digital stuff, to trick things out with a continuously improving webbing of software-created accoutrements.

In another sense, “virtualization” casts some of the stuff in our gadget gardens into the digital doldrums. A digital doldrum device is anything you still own, but don’t use because you can’t find the charger, Bluetooth-to-USB dongleor other mission-critical thingie.

Ultimately, the answer depends on the degree of usefulness of the potential accoutrements of the renaissance.

Either way, it’s coming. Because to virtualize is to gear up to work at “Web speed,” like all companies “born on broadband” (name any over-the-top provider of anything) already do.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at translation-please.com or multichannel.com/blog.