What is a Smart TV and is it smart to buy one? Smart TVs generated a lot of buzz at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Market analysts report that 40 million Smart TVs were sold in 2010, about 21 per cent of all new TV set sales. But what is this new technology all about? Here's the scoop...
Is a Smart TV a Smart Buy?
Two things differentiate a Smart TV from presumably "dumb" TVs. First, a Smart TV is connected to the Internet though built-in communications components. Marketing types called it a "Connected TV" last year. Now it's called a Smart TV because manufacturers are adding computing hardware and software to make a TV more intelligent.
Smart TVs can learn your couch-surfing preferences; search the Internet and cable listings faster and more precisely than standard search functions; control DVRs and other video devices; interact with viewers for online shopping and real-time response to commercials; even substitute for your computer and monitor in Web-surfing, email, Facebook, and other online activities. Smart TVs are the television industry's comeback to the competition posed by the Web.
TV set makers and content producers have tried this sort of thing before. "Interactive television" was supposed to capture the eyeballs of the viewing public ten years ago. But the many players in the TV industry never agreed on common standards and failed to demonstrate the benefits of the concept to consumers. This time may be different thanks to a couple of factors.
First, the players in the TV industry are sharing a common pain - declining viewership and sales - making them much more willing to cooperate with one another to reverse the downward trends. Second, a powerhouse leader has emerged to champion a standard for Smart TVs.
All Your TV Are Belong to Google
You guessed it: Google TV! What Google did for smart phones with its open source Android operating system, it's now doing for television. Google TV is a software platform that enables innovation and collaboration between TV hardware makers, content producers, delivery systems such as cable, broadcast TV, and IPTV (Internet Protocol Television), and just about anyone with an Internet-based product or service. But maybe putting all those eggs into one flat-screen basket isn't such a great idea.
Dad: "I want to do our taxes now."
Mom: "I want to order the groceries now."
Kids: "But Animorphs is on now!"
Teen: "I have to update my Facebook status."
Currently, everyone could just go do their things on their PCs connected to the Internet by a home WiFi network. But of course, everyone's going to want to do their thing on the big screen Smart TV. That does not bode well for domestic tranquility. Of course, bored singles (and boring couples who agreeably do everything together) will love Smart TV. It gives them nearly limitless things to do, or at least watch others do.
There are two ways to get a Smart TV. You can buy a new one, or add a set-top box to your existing flat-screen HD TV. Logitech makes the Revue set-top box for Google TV. About 500,000 Revue units were shipped in 2010.
Sony was first to market with a Google TV/Smart TV television set. Samsung, LG, Toshiba, Panasonic, Sharp, and just about everyone who makes TV sets was showing off Smart TVs based on Google TV at CES. But there's a pothole in the road to Smart TV.
In December, 2010, Google asked Logitech and other Google TV hardware partners to postpone product launches while Google worked on revisions to the Google TV software platform. That dampened everyone's enthusiasm quite a bit. Suddenly, the "Smart TV" meme arose.
TV makers are touting "Smart TV" to avoid putting the "Google" label on their products. They want to keep the concept generic, just as "smartphone" is any mobile phone with software intelligence, while a Google Android phone is powered by a specific operating system.
Apple TV may become a competitor to Google TV. Right now, Apple TV is a set-top device that supports renting and downloading movies from iTunes, Netflix, and even Google's YouTube. Apple TV could be expanded to support apps, Web surfing, and other Smart TV functions. But you can bet that Apple TV will remain Apple's closely controlled baby, while Google TV will be open source.
The best bet is to wait until at least mid-summer, 2011, before getting serious about a Smart TV investment. Hopefully, the market will be less confused by then, and it's likely that prices will drop over time as well.
Do you have a Smart TV? Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 19 Jan 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Smart TV (Posted: 19 Jan 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved