Yes, yes, yes – this is the year of Smart TV – it’s all potentially very interesting, and our viewing experiences could be transformed forever, but it’s going to get very tedious before it becomes truly exciting.
Looking at some of the news we’ve seen this week so far: Samsung is opening an API for its TVs; Myspace is reinventing itself as a social TV service; Google TV is getting new hardware and a revamp; Ubuntu is entering the TV space; Opera is launching a TV app store; UK broadcaster BSkyB has invested in innovative social TV app Zeebox and aims to integrate its features into its own apps…
Expect the Smart TV buzz to build further as talk of an Apple TV set mounts throughout the year.
This is the latest frontier in the world of technology – TVs that allow us to be more interactive, to watch what we want, when we want. The problem is that this is just like the Wild West: while many settlements were successfully built, there were plenty of casualties along the way. We’re going to see a lot of failures in the Smart TV arena – many of services we’ll see this year will go nowhere.
This is unavoidable, of course – every technology has its period of trial and error where manufacturers and consumers work out together what is the best mutual approach. Sometimes superior technology loses out to better marketing, but in the end we tend to reach a consensus over which technologies are the ones consumers should invest their hard-earned money in.
The problem is that right now ‘Smart TV’ is such a buzz phrase that a lot of consumers are going to get burned by buying set-top boxes or TVs with ‘smart’ technology that could be dead in the water in a year’s time. There’s no way of knowing which technology will be successful and which will fail – it’s like Blu-ray versus HD DVD all over again but with many more contenders. We won’t have an overall winner this time, but there will be many casualties. Prepare for at least a year of confusing and noisy marketing, inflated claims and hype in the meantime.
I’m highly excited about the potential of Smart TV, but for now I feel like putting my fingers in my ears and ignoring it for a year until it shakes itself out.