Smart TV

Category: Television

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.
Smart TV

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...

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Most recent comments on "Smart TV"

Posted by:

David Permenter
19 Jan 2011

I live in Hungary. Hulu, for example, is not available here (yet) due to international content licensing restrictions. Might this issue significantly affect availability of Smart TV content? Will I be able to access the same content as people in the USA?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I would expect the same issues.

Posted by:

19 Jan 2011

I don't understand 'Smart TV' yet, although I bought a 46" Samsung LED TV and Samsung Blue-ray player last week. It was a big jump for me from a 20" analog CRT TV. Both boxes seem like a PC in that they can directly connect to the Internet via category 5e or category 6 cable to my router (I chose a cat6 50' cable for only a few dollars more). Both start up (IPL in mainframe talk) like a PC, and both automatically update to the latest applications Samsung provides to access specific Internet functions like YouTube, Netflix, etc. It's amazing magic to see, but since my wife watches TV more than I, I haven't had time yet to test these application thoroughly. Nevertheless, I'm impressed with this new technology, and it appears to be future-proof for quite a while.

Posted by:

Chris Martin
20 Jan 2011

The Roku box makes a lot more sense at $60-$100 than the Logitech Revue at $300.

Posted by:

25 Jan 2011

The Logitech Revue is the way to go in my opinion. This weekend while watching the playoffs I was checking stats and updating Facebook all while still having the game on my screen. As a DISH Network employee I have had plenty of time to work with the Logitech Revue before and after the release. DISH customers are able to get the Logitech for only 179$ and can have it completely integrated with the DISH DVR so that there is a seamless connection between the two.

Posted by:

26 Jan 2011

Google TV , I looked into this and some stations are blocking Google TV like Fox, But Hulu has all the stations, I looked at internet TV and have found add on boxes all have problems and most are blocked from certain TV programs

Posted by:

26 Jan 2011

May as well get those shiny new Smart TVs now as that is what will be in the market in the foreseeable future. But hoping the prices will come down for those "smart" connections ain't gonna happen. Like gasoline, the days of 50 cent a gallon are long gone.
Don't know about TV viewing as I don't watch any, ever, but all the gimmicks and fads do tend to die out. 3D will die out if you have to wear those silly glasses.

Posted by:

26 Jan 2011

Ok, I admit it, I don't understand...for the price difference I could pick up a fully functional low end computer and hook THAT up to my TV instead. A used mac mini makes an excellent media gateway for example.

Posted by:

20 Feb 2012

I have a Sonysmart tv. we are on Comcast Cable ,and have High defination channels.The internet quit working on it so I called Sony and they walked me through the steps to reset my televidion.Everything is working except my close captioning no longer works! i checked the settings ,it is set on CC1 and Text 1.It still doesn't work. Does anyone out there know how I can I do to fix the problem?

Posted by:

27 Dec 2013

The annoying thing about my Smart TV, [a 42" Samsung LED TV, which I love many other things about] is that it doesn't allow me to access the free re-runs of network shows that I can easily watch on my computer on the networks' sites or, etc., but don't want to watch sitting at my computer! That was one of the main reasons I got it; it never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to do so without paying for a subscribed service.

Posted by:

02 Feb 2014

I just bought a HDTV with smart tv. Can I ditch my cable box, dvr, and remote?

EDITOR'S NOTE: You'll get a better idea of what you can do with Internet-based TV content here:

Posted by:

28 Dec 2014

what is amazon tv ? how does it work

EDITOR'S NOTE: Do you mean this?

Posted by:

06 Jan 2015

Both boxes seem like a PC in that they can directly connect to the Internet via category 5e or category 6 cable to my router ptv sports live Both start up (IPL in mainframe talk) like a PC, and both automatically update to the latest applications Samsung provides to access specific Internet functions like YouTube, Netflix, etc. It's amazing magic to see, but since my wife watches TV more than I,

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