Desktopbox offers a real-time internet broadcasting platform that enables synchronisation between a radio or television broadcast and a web-based experience. The company, founded in 2003 and based in Toronto in Canada, has been acquired by Harris Corporation, the ever-expanding international communications and information technology company that counts Leitch among its broadcast equipment brands.

The Desktopbox platform allows for a two-screen, enhanced television experience in which programming providers can send web links to browsers, synchronised with a live or pre-recorded programme.

Deployment of desktop box currently requires installing a server at the broadcaster and providing a player for download from the web. URL links are keyed or copied into the management interface and transmitted in response to cues or manual control.

During the programme, URL links providing additional relevant information are automatically displayed on the PC screen. For example, when a baseball player comes up to bat, relevant statistics can be shown, or when a national car advertisement airs the web page of a local dealer might be displayed.

Radio services could also be enhanced. For instance music radio stations might include additional web material, such as lyrics, album notes, concert dates or links to purchase music online.

Harris started out as a printing company founded by the Harris brothers in 1895. Today the company has annual revenue of almost $5 billion and 16,000 employees.

“We’ve been working with Desktopbox since early 2007 on the application of their technology into our content management platforms,” said Tim Thorsteinson, the president of Harris Broadcast Communications. “By bringing the technology of Desktopbox into Harris, we’re able to more rapidly and extensively integrate their internet synchronisation technology into our media solutions.”

Integration into broadcast systems will be a priority, as the current approach seems relatively awkward and labour intensive.

Harris will integrate Desktopbox into its software product line and market it worldwide. It will be incorporated with a range of broadcast scheduling, automation, traffic and billing systems. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

As with many so-called two-screen experiences that have been experimented with over the years, the real issue may be enabling such synchronous services to scale beyond a few thousand simultaneous users to reach a mainstream audience of millions.

That really requires a broadcast approach. Some may remember that this was attempted in the late nineties by the Advanced Television Enhancement Forum with the ATVEF standard which sought to integrate television with web pages but ultimately failed to gain much traction.