Tech of the Hub recently went for a browse around Samsung’s TV App Store on the Samsung BD-D5700 Blu-ray player. Samsung recently announced that over five million apps had been downloaded onto their connected Smart TVs and Smart Hubs (Blu-ray players and home theater systems). While five million is significant, to keep it in context, there have been fourteen billion apps downloaded from the Apple app store. Most of the apps downloaded from the Samsung apps were free ones including YouTube, Google Maps, Vimeo and Texas Hold’em. The one paid app in the top five was AccuWeather (why it’s a paid app is a mystery).
The BD-D5700 felt underpowered when it came to starting up and navigating the app store. Performance was acceptable within apps. The main screen has icons all over the place and it just feels unorganized. There must be a better way to use the screen real estate. The Hub briefly experienced the Samsung app store on their new 8000 Series LED TV as well and it did not exhibit the same performance issues.
|Smart Hub’s or Smart TV’s Main Screen|
Some apps come preloaded such as Netflix, Facebook, MLB.TV and Pandora (Samsung does not count these in the five million downloads). Samsung also includes a video search app that highlights certain movies, their key information and where you can buy them. Great concept, mediocre execution. The glaring omission from the search results were titles available on Netflix. Results from Blockbuster and CinemaNow appear to be a work-in-progress. The YouTube app was solid, doing a great job displaying full screen video. The other interesting app was the Rovi TV listings app. It could be handy running on a Samsung TV that doesn’t have a cable box or uses an antenna for over-the-air broadcasts.
|Where can I watch it?|
|Samsung’s YouTube app|
|Rovi’s TV Listing App|
Outside of paid steaming services and video search apps, there really doesn’t appear to be any compelling apps for the TV. Maybe this is why Apple has not created a TV app store yet. There’s also an issue around the quality of apps. Games like Texas Hold’em are enjoyable but it feels a bit like my old Colecovision. Most of the apps had a flat, unexciting look to them. The USA Today news app had some stale content in it (apparently Obama had not taken office yet according to the Politics section). Contrast this with the news app on the Wii. It’s dynamic and interactive. It leverages sound, movement and the Wiimote to make news consumption an enjoyable experience.
|Today’s News from 2008|
The Hub is still waiting for the killer TV app that makes everyone want to run out to their virtual TV app store. Could it be that TV app developers are simply lacking in imagination? (Yes, if you’ve looked at the equivalent apps on the Wii). One glimmer of hope is the newly announced ESPN ScoresCenter. Or is it that interactive apps are just better suited to complimentary devices such as tablets or smart phones? The TV is just better suited to watching content and playing video games. Maybe we already have the killer app in Netflix but its distribution didn’t require a TV app store.
The other problem with the Samsung TV app store is that its specific to Samsung devices. What happens if I want to buy an LG or another manufacturer’s TV later on? I would either have to repurchase my apps if available in the LG store (which has very few apps to begin with) or I would need to buy a external Samsung box such as one of their Blu-ray players.
While functional and useful with its paid video streaming services, the Samsung TV app store must overcome some serious challenges. As outlined above, the first centers around execution. The other is waiting for its game-changing app. Every successful device and platform has had it: WordPerfect for DOS, PageMaker for the Mac, the web browser for the Internet, the examples go on and on. If it comes, what will it be for the TV app store?