Fresh off a tumultuous yet successful merger with Time Warner, AOL’s Barry Schuler cautions that leading-edge Internet industries shouldn’t lose sight of what consumers primarily want. Speaking to delegates at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, the president of AOL Interactive Services reminded industry execs that consumers will drive the content, the functionality and by default, the technology that drives new Internet applications. And according to Schuler, what consumers want is convenience, as well as choice over the content they receive. Below is an edited excerpt from his Jan. 8 keynote presentation. A hotlink to his full presentation can be found on our web site. Your television, 10 years from now or five years from now will be a computer. It will look like a TV. It will act like a TV. But it will be a computer inside and it will hook into a pipe and that pipe is going to be the Internet. And your television is going to stream over the Internet, and so is your music and so is your data and so is your phone. And when that happens, magical things are going to happen. There are going to be tons of transformations. In the music business, you see it happening already. Walk around the show. MP3 everywhere. The whole Napster phenomenon – that’s the consumer talking. Again, saying not necessarily that they want to steal music, they just want to get it that way. Television, the whole transport system of how you get television, the ability to overlay interactivity on top of it – I’d be willing to guess that five or 10 years from now there will probably be 10,000, maybe 100,000, maybe 1 million channels of TV. We are not talking about something new. We are talking about taking what we have seen happen and the transformational quality and everything that is teeing up and applying it to what goes on in the home. Cable TV today is delivered in analog and a little bit of digital, (and cablecos) have the high-speed infrastructure, both video and data will come across it. And there is the home itself. Over the next 10 years, you wouldn’t think about building a home without a network. It will just be built in. This convergence is going to stimulate a wave of innovation that is going to make the last 10 years look like it was just a warm-up. The real race is coming because it is driven by the factors we know are real – consumers buy convenience. People don’t want to have five or six different email addresses. They don’t want to have different portfolios from different service providers. If they are putting their pictures online, they don’t want to have 10 different versions of their albums. If they are going to do music digitally, they don’t want to have 10 different music libraries. They want one. They just want to be able to access from lots of different devices. And that is what we (AOL) are doing. The PC is not dead. It is the place where you are going to want to configure, personalize, do the one-on-one types of things. You probably don’t want to mange your money on your interactive TV while all the kids are running around. Your wife probably doesn’t want to shop at Victoria’s Secret in the living room. Sometimes when an industry is going to be transformed, people get nervous. I remember talking to merchants eight or 10 years ago. They hated the idea of e-commerce. They thought it would put them all out of business. The music industry is very nervous. But could it be a bigger opportunity than ever because when you make it convenient, people will be willing to buy more and consume more music than ever. So my message to you today at CES – which is the Consumer Electronics Show, maybe the Convergence Electronics Show or maybe the Convenience Consumer Convergence Electronics Show – is this the cusp of where it is all happening. You can see and feel it out on the show floor. Consumers are ready.