From a passive, dumb device to a connected, intelligent, interactive home entertainment hub, TV technology has unquestionably come a long way in last couple of years. This journey also brought physical changes in Television as plasma made cathode tubes seem pre-historic and then technology shifted gears with LCD
bringing unique features, radically thinner form factor, stylish designs and enhanced viewing experience across color accuracy, viewing angle, brightness, contract level and others. But introduction of Connected TVs and more recent Smart TVs has brought a whole new dimension to the way Television has ever existed. It brings convergence of old-fashioned television watching with the modern experience of surfing the web bundled together on the same TV
screen with the convenience of 10 feet viewing experience.
Smart TV App Ecosystem
A recent report from Park Associates, predicts consumer trend for extensive inclination towards on-demand and online video content forecasting Internet-connectable TV devices to reach nearly 350 million units worldwide by 2015
. Another report similarly predicts 21 Percent of all TVs sold in 2011 will be Smart TVs…Below let us review the shift in TV technology and its adoption which is steadily changing the face of Television as it exists today.
Early Movers – Internet enabled TV
Late 2008, standard TVs enabled for internet featured YouTube, Netflix and other social networking sites across TV platform from LG (Netcast), Samsung (InternetTV), Panasonic (Vieracast) and others. Yahoo widget platform also gained popularity with close integration with major TV manufactures. This early Internet enabled TVs worked under closely guarded frameworks (walled garden) with limited access to few pre-defined bundled applications and supporting basic user interface. Internet on TV did not gain much momentum beyond early adopters which further got dismissed due to premium price, low usability, setup issues, limited consumer awareness, sluggishness of user experience and absence of quality content, but what it succeeded in achieving was consumer imagination and opinion to perceive Television in it new avatar for web consumption.
Connected TV – The Game Changer
LG Smart TV
Several Internet video streaming receiver boxes got introduced begining 2008, and hence started the next wave with Connected TV devices enabling internet connectivity in conjunction with existing TV set. The term connected TV here is actually a misnomer since majority of the products under the segment are connected devices (like media players, set top boxes, game console, Blu-ray players etc.) and not actual TV sets. Few partial open systems started to emerge but majority still remained closed with access to a suite of applications like Netflix, Pandora and others preloaded or packaged as part of system software. Connected TV changed the content aggregation, delivery and consumption landscape bringing new players while changing consumption habits and expanding the consumer base to newer levels. Connected devices like Boxee, Roku, Apple TV, Blu-ray players, Xbox and more recently Hybrid STBs reaped huge success as they enabled users to re-use existing TV sets (millions HDTV set got sold with LCD, LED technology) with the power of connected world.
provided a more mature, content rich, user friendly, stable but constrained interface for web connectivity. It solved specific needs for exclusive movie, TV packages, subscription/rental offering from content aggregators
like Netflix, AmazonVOD, iTunes and others at a price point cheaper than the traditional Pay-Tv subscription. Over the top
services also gained momentum and started to change the business model by offering convenience of “when
” and “what you want is what you pay for
“. Connected TV offerings which started as a complementary service to standard Pay-Tv subscription, soon gained significant momentum to challenge and compete with existing broadcasters and service providers.
Smart TV – The Next big Mover
What is Smart TV? Envisioned as the next logical extension in TV technology bringing alive the connected ecosystem and usability experience in a nicely knitted unified package – the TV itself. Smart TV aspires to change TV landscape the way smartphones changed usage of cellphones by allowing users to easily search for movies, TV shows, web browsing, chatting with friends and TV based Apps offering value added services.
Smart TV boasts of substantial processing power (Intel is pushing ahead with its CE 4100 platform as the target for Smart TV devices with Boxee, Logitech Revue, Sony’s Google TV box already using 4100 or its variant), rich user interface, social networking applications, television, built-in video conferencing and web browser capabilities. Introduction of Smart TV is also changing the role of CE manufacturers to share the entertainment platform with likes of service providers as CE manufacturers enter the domain of developing content portals and apps stores featuring YouTube, Hulu Plus, ESPN Next Level, Google Maps etc. to bring product differentiation among competition (Samsung app store already offers more than 400 apps for Smart TV and it recently crossed two millionth TV application downloads
). Smart TVs have started enterting the market with Sony Google TV
(Bravia series) launched in late 2010 and recently LG and Samsung have introducing their range of Smart TV
series . It’s rumored that Apple is also working on converging Apple TV to a smart Apple TV (Apple TV is already present in 1M+ homes) which is bound to make the competition far more interesting.
The Way Forward
Connected and Smart TV is positioned to drive content consumption bringing opportunities for Pay TV operations, advertisers, content aggregators, broadcasters and application developers to exploit the new distribution and consumption model. The new ecosystem also necessitates greater partnership and collaborative coexistence among the stakeholders as device manufacturers and content aggregators enter, overlap the scared domain of broadcasters and service providers.