Meet the New Guide: The 'RUI'


Call it what you will — cross-platform, multiscreen, IPTV — serving video to more screens than the TV continues to pop new language into the landscape.

Let's take “RUI.” It stands for “Remote User Interface.” It matters to how people find video when they're not watching TV. In short: The guide for the other screens.

Other screens means PCs, laptops, and any in the growing pile of other, smaller gadgets that are video-capable.

The story of “the guide” in cable is thick with history, shenanigans, and lawsuits. Because it's the first screen consumers see, in most cases, it's a bellwether of brand. Everybody wants to be the first “touch point” with consumers.

A guide for linear TV typically contains three major pieces. There's the guide data — what shows are on what channel, at what time — and who owns that information.

Then there's the stuffing of that data into the guide framework (the grids). In the early days of digital video, most set-tops contained barely enough memory to store more than a couple days worth. This was back when people actually saved the printed guide insert in the Sunday paper or subscribed to print weeklies. (Remember TV Guide?)

And there's the guide itself, always with the X on its back. Scrolling grids, static grids, remote-control buttons. The one constant in electronic program guides is the opinion motherlode about its blemishes.

If you're a cable operator laying the framework for video services that show up on an assortment of screens, your technologists are probably already up to their elbows in the navigational part of the transition. The guide; the “UI.” At issue: How to present a consistent “look and feel” to a range of display devices, each of which may have different screen resolutions and bandwidth capabilities. That's where the “remote” part comes in — and its cousin, “the cloud.”

The thinking: Rather than pushing a guide and its data onto a screen that may not have the firepower to deal with it, why not put the navigation elsewhere in the network (in “the cloud”)? Bring up the guide from somewhere else (preferably so quickly that consumers don't think twice about it).

In tech lingo, this discussion teems with phrasing like “DLNA with CEA 2014,” HTML 5.0, Silverlight (Microsoft's version), and Adobe Flash. Sometimes you'll hear talk of “X.11 on steroids,” to mean a way of painting a pixel-accurate representation of a screen on another screen.

That's the set-up of the RUI. This is all in early-brew stage. We'll keep you tuned.

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