Revolutionary TVs: It’s More than Hardware

December 1, 2011

Everyone is hard at work at developing a “revolutionary” TV. It will change the way you watch TV. It will be so great that you will have to run out and buy one. According to the Wall Street Journal, Howard Stringer, the head of Sony, has stated that there has been a “tremendous amount of R&D” put into a “different kind of TV set”. When talking about Apple’s potential future TV, Steve Jobs said in the Walter Issacson biography, “I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synched with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”

Lenovo has also joined the party with the announcement of a smart TV known as IdeaTV. Like Sony and Apple, Lenovo is pursuing a four-screen strategy that lets you consume your media anywhere (TV, tablet, smartphone, computer). Already in the market with their SmartTVs, Samsung is preparing to launch a new version with Google TV as the underlying platform. Despite the initial announcement at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Samsung was wise not to go to market this year given the failure with the earlier version of Google TV. Samsung has stated that their implementation will be differentiated from other Google TV devices. Samsung is also planning to release OLED-based displays at this January’s CES. OLED has the promise of a superior picture in a thinner package with less power consumption.

So, will these new products change TV the way we know it? Hard to say, with manufacturers holding their cards close to the chest. The last big change that drove TV sales was the creation of affordable large flat high-definition (HD) screens. However, it was more than the TV manufacturers building HD capable sets. Content creators and providers also bought in and provided HD TV shows and movies (Content providers love the opportunity to reissue old movies in new formats). All of the innovations since then: 3D, TV apps and low power consumption have not helped to stem the shrinking margins in the TV market. The bottom line is that these new features have not provided any compelling value to the consumer.

Whatever the next big change is to TV, the whole ecosystem needs to come along for the ride. I have not doubt that Apple can implement the technology Steve Jobs described above. However, even if higher resolution sets were available tomorrow, it would take some time for the eco-system to catch-up (2160p anyone?). Even though the Internet provides a ubiquitous and instant way to deliver content, the current infrastructure in the United States struggles to deliver 1080P video to the living room.

It seems the real opportunity lies in giving people the ability to watch any content from any location at any time. Instead of “apps”, I would prefer recommendation engines that help me discover new shows that I would like (like Netflix does today). The real problem here is with content providers. As long as we live in a world of content windows and bundles, only the technology side of this challenge will be solved. When the studios are willing to change how they license content, that will create the real TV revolution.

What's Next for TV. Picture of LCD
What’s Next for TV?

Tags: 3D, Apple, HDTV, Lenovo, Samsung, Smart TV, Sony, streaming, TV

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