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Television Technology

The Coming Tech Battle Over 'Smart TVs' 314

An anonymous reader writes "One persistent theme from this year's CES is that television manufacturers are racing to establish the concept of 'Smart TVs,' sets that integrate modern browsing features, control through voice or motion, application support, and even upgradability. This article suggests the living room will be the location of the newest tech war. Quoting: 'To compete, the companies will have to offer carefully curated, high-quality applications and be open to supporting mobile devices such as tablets. Other media companies have already started: Comcast, for example, announced that it's going to allow OnDemand streaming not only to Samsung Smart TV's but also to the iPad. The TV makers are hoping that the multitude of additional features will be enough to trigger turnover like the industry saw after the introduction of flat-panel screens, Bloomberg noted. It's a big market, if the television makers can figure out how to crack it.'"
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The Coming Tech Battle Over 'Smart TVs'

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:12AM (#38673630)

    Hello commercials that start with the announcer screaming "Volume up! Volume up! Volume up!"

    • Or the kids shows with "Ok, kids, repeat after me. TV, dial 1-9-0-0-S-E-X-Y-V-I-X-E-N-S"

    • by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:20AM (#38673710) Homepage Journal
      You can't really interact well with a voice system, if media is going off in the background. I learned this the hard way. It saves a lot of headaches if you just accept that you may have to hit a button before giving a command
      • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:43AM (#38673974) Journal

        If you hit a button anyway, why not just hit a button to turn the volume up?

      • Also, it's highly annoying to have to raise your voice just to adjust the volume while watching a movie. I'd prefer having a remote with a couple of buttons for the more commonly used functions, and perhaps a button-activated voice control system a la Siri which responds to commands like "Turn on English subtitles".

        But what I'd really like to see is a better unified control for all the systems that make up my A/V setup: TV, Amp, Media player, PVR, Apple TV, etc. Currently, the only way I have to contro
      • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:38PM (#38674694)
        Use the Star Trek approach: A single-word, easily-recognised prefix command that informs the device that something important is about to be said and it needs to mute its speakers and listen. At least, I assume this is why voice commands in the series always started by addressing 'Computer.'
    • Wait until the first tv viruses come out. "Turn off! Turn off!"

    • by khr ( 708262 ) <kevinrubin@gmail.com> on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:00PM (#38674174) Homepage

      That would be great for a new remake of The Outer Limits so maybe they really can control the vertical and the horizontal, etc...

  • I want a dumb TV (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:17AM (#38673688)

    I want to be able to attach smart stuff to the TV...smart stuff I choose.

    When the smart stuff dies or is obsoleted, I can get new smart stuff and keep the old TV.

    • like a set top box that outputs video to the screen. My god, this is groundbreaking.

      I also would actually consider buying a TV with some processing power and USB inputs, so that the TV runs the thinking. The USB keys could hold whatever software may be needed for clients/OS/whatever. Of course, this would only cause an upgrade war to USB somehow.

      I still live by a rule of no more than $100/year for a tv. My last is was under 300 dollars, and is over 3 years old, so I could be in the market, but I am not jump

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Watch it with new TV's the forced upgrade cycle is they blow up.

        Last 3 HDTV's did not last more than 4 years but all cost more than $1800.00 That's a major rip-off.

    • by David_Hart ( 1184661 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:30AM (#38673838)

      I agree. The TV should remain a dumb device, much like the computer monitor. The TV manufacturers see the churn in the cell phone space and just drool. However, I don't see people spending $2K for a new TV every 12 to 18 months.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        65" LCD LED TV, with high spec computer built in. Expansions slot on the back to add 'another' hard disk and extra ram, at least 2 network ports and 4 usb ports, and through in a pad or smart phone as the remote.

        Don't need a router built in as that is best served as the internet connection with firewall and wireless.

    • Re:I want a dumb TV (Score:4, Interesting)

      by muon-catalyzed ( 2483394 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:36AM (#38673892)
      I want the opposite, what I want is a combo, TV+PS3+Blu-ray, a Playstation TV or Xbox TV. I think Sony could do this, if they were smart enough, that would be an unbeatable all-in-one solution. Personally, I hate multiple remotes, DVD players, Netflix dongles and such stuff. Just one bezel free huge rectangle with PS3 and Blu-ray drive seamlessly integrated, that would be nice. No more cables, no more input selection or remote controller fights.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I want the opposite, what I want is a combo, TV+PS3+Blu-ray, a Playstation TV or Xbox TV. I think Sony could do this, if they were smart enough, that would be an unbeatable all-in-one solution.

        I'm sure Sony could easily do this. But it would cost you a small fortune. Plus it would really suck when one of those integrated devices breaks. It's much more economical to replace a broken PS3 or Xbox than the entire system.

        Personally, I hate multiple remotes, DVD players, Netflix dongles and such stuff. Just one bezel free huge rectangle with PS3 and Blu-ray drive seamlessly integrated, that would be nice. No more cables, no more input selection or remote controller fights.

        Both my TV and Bluray player can access Netflix (and other services) as well as my HTPC. Admittedly it was a pain to set up initially, but it's all done and I never have to think about it again(so far). I also only have one remote [amazon.com]for my TV, HTPC (though there is a wireless keyboard

      • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:04PM (#38674214)
        On the other hand, you will be prevented from doing things that you want to do, right now or in the future when new consumer systems come out. I have seen this happen with DVDs:

        Me: Stuff about DRM and deCSS
        Other person: Oh so what, only pirates want to rip or copy DVDs! Look, my laptop plays DVDs just fine, and so does my DVD player!

        Some years later

        Other person: Hey, how can I rip this DVD so that it will play on my new tablet computer?

        The problem with these all in one TVs is not the form factor, nor is it the difficulty in upgrading them -- it is the DRM. Someone else gets to dictate to you when and how you use your TV, whether or not you are allowed to fast-forward past certain parts of shows or movies (e.g. you cannot skip commercials, but you can skip non-commercial parts of a show), when you can start watching a movie, where you can buy your movies, etc.

        At first, everything will be OK -- after all, you follow the rules and are not a pirate, right? Five years from now, though, there will be new devices that you might want, and you might discover that you actually want to do something that your all-in-one TV will not allow you to do. We saw it happen with DVDs, we have seen it happen with other DRM systems, and I can guarantee that it will happen with "Smart TVs."
        • by Evtim ( 1022085 )

          Tell me about it!

          I hear that when I buy, say an album, I actually purchase a personal license to listen to this music for life, right? So, if I bought a vinyl of say, The Rolling Stones, why am I not getting the tape, the disc and the MP3 for exactly the price of production and transport and not a single cent added profit? I purchased the hardware necessary to play these different standards over the years, in order to help innovation and move the wheels of progress (so I can enjoy higher quality performance

    • by Twinbee ( 767046 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:36AM (#38673896) Homepage
      Exactly. A screen should just be a screen. High resolution, low latency, great colour gamut, high frame-rate - sure, knock yourself out. Anything else will probably detract from the purchase.
    • No kidding. A good monitor lasts much longer than the computer it's attached to. Keeping a screen from one hardware generation to the next is one of the biggest cost savers available to the cognoscenti. Never mind that the computer you make to plug into your TV is wholly under your control.

      Do Not Want.

      • No kidding. A good monitor lasts much longer than the computer it's attached to. Keeping a screen from one hardware generation to the next is one of the biggest cost savers available to the cognoscenti.

        Then you can imagine how disappointed I was when the screen backlight border spontaneously started to peel on the 24" 1080p monitor I bought and planned to keep for at least 6 years, and still use for many years after that. I just don't know what happened, it was sitting on a desk out of the sun and one day I see the shadow of the black border edging (apparently somewhere between the backlight source and the pixel layer) covering a corner of the screen T_T If I was to buy another one now the only thing I'd

      • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:47PM (#38674848) Homepage

        I would love to buy a new monitor, but pixel density/resolution seems to have stagnated since the advent of the widescreen LCD.

    • Re:I want a dumb TV (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Asic Eng ( 193332 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:47AM (#38674036)

      I second that. My dad has a Samsung smart TV. It can record to an external harddrive, but you can't watch that content on your PC at a later timer (someone managing your digital rights for you ...). It has a Skype app, but you can't use it in full screen mode, and mysteriously you can't make video calls to Linux machines with it. It can theoretically play youtube videos, but the playback interrupts so often to make them unwatchable. (Sure he has a slow internet connection, but every other device on his WLAN can handle youtube videos just fine.) ASCII input is taking the old cellphone input schemes to new heights - never seen something more inconvenient. Leaving the skype app in the wrong way will make it forget the password, and entering that again will keep you busy for 10 painful minutes.

      A small media computer connected to his screen would probably be better in just about any aspect. Eventually I'll hook that up for him.

    • Exactly, another dumb idea. It seems like the tech industry is getting dumber, in the early/mid-2000s you saw some crazy "out-there" ideas but no blatantly dumb ideas such as embedding a non-upgradeable (and quite lame) HTPC into a TV for all time. If anything TVs need to be made more modular, not less.

      On top of that there's no consumer demand for these things, but I think that's because most people want a purely passive TV experience, which is understandable, in fact I've been thinking of writing a script

    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:10PM (#38674316) Homepage

      I want to be able to attach smart stuff to the TV...smart stuff I choose.

      I agree with this ... I recently bought a new TV; it's a nice TV but it's got no wifi or any of that stuff. And, I didn't want any of that ... it's just a monitor really, the fact that it has speakers or knows how to change channels isn't even being used.

      But, my AppleTV allows me to connect and stream all of the stuff in my iTunes. Nothing you couldn't do with Slingbox or Windows Media Player or a lot of other products on the market ... just a wireless media device.

      It cost 1/10th to buy the Apple TV as the cost of the TV, so to me it's the more replaceable part so it makes more sense to not have it as part of the TV ... and it's cheaper and easier to upgrade and replace.

      I'm reminded of my wife's last car, which had in-dash GPS navigation ... which was cool because at the time it was new. But, as the maps got out of date and we looked at updating it ... the DVD with updated maps from GM would have cost almost 3x the price of a consumer GPS you could pick up at any electronics store. It wasn't worth trying to upgrade the one installed in the car; the technology was pretty much obsolete.

      So, me I'd rather have a device external to the TV which is more readily upgraded than have the functionality in the TV ... and since my last TV lasted almost a decade, I expect I'm at least 5-7 years away from replacing this one. Which means anything they're planning now will have completely changed by the next TV.

      And, I also discovered the added cool factor that I can control my AppleTV from my iPad ... so I would say to any company making a media extender ... make an Android or iOS app for your device ... being able to use your smart phone/tablet to control your media center is way cooler than just the remote that comes with it. If they're already both on your wifi network, there's no reason they shouldn't be able to communicate. I can control my AppleTV and the iTunes on my computer from anywhere in the house, and the native app means I can do more than I can with the remote that it came with.

      Putting this into the TV just adds cost to the TV, and opens you up for some functionality which has become obsolete which you can't readily update ... spend the extra money on an external device, they've gotten quite cheap now, and they are likely a little more general purpose than what will be in the TV.

    • It's a good idea, but very hard to pull off in practice.

      Why? Well, most customers are basically afraid of cables. If you have a technical solution for that you may have a business.

  • My only beef: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fredrated ( 639554 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:19AM (#38673692) Journal

    Where's the content? I would rather watch a good show in black and white that watch the current drivel in 3D surround sound motion enhanced smell augmented life like blah blah blah.

  • Finally (Score:5, Funny)

    by berashith ( 222128 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:19AM (#38673700)

    Finally, the year of linux on the TV is here !

    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:24AM (#38673766) Journal
      Unfortunately, it'll be a different half-assed build, with a different shit interface, and tragicomedic 'app store', on every single model...

      The only thing they'll have in common is being cryptographically locked, so that the only thing that can be installed are the manufacturer firmware updates that never materialize.
    • Re:Finally (Score:4, Insightful)

      by FaxeTheCat ( 1394763 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:35AM (#38673886)
      It has been for a while, but the manufacturers did not bother to tell you, because it doesn't matter.

      I just got a new Samsung TV. It is running Linux and loads of other free software. well hidden, so it looks like a TV, and just works.

      And with the built in media player, I can now let my Popcorn Hour box stay at the older non-networked TV.
      • Re:Finally (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:56AM (#38674124) Homepage

        It's been that way forever.

        Panasonic, Samsung and LG as well as NEC all run linux on their HDTV's and always have.

        Cool part is some TV's have a bug that let you into the OS via the rs232 port (if you bought one that was not bottom of the line and is missing that port) I was rooting around in a NEC E322 just yesterday looking through /etc and /bin. Just wished the TV had xmodem software installed so I could pull files off of it.

  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:20AM (#38673702) Homepage

    My current TV works fine. I have no interest in spending large quantities of money on a TV that does the same thing only with a bunch of extra crap tacked on.

    Now if you get me a TV that eliminates the need for a separate box from my IPTV provider, then we'll talk.

  • Urgh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:21AM (#38673720)

    " To compete, the companies will have to offer carefully curated, high-quality applications and be open to supporting mobile devices such as tablets."

    Surely they mean "To compete, the companies will have to own, license or aquire vast numbers of vague patents and be open to locking users in to their product by pushing sub-par standards and deliberately crippling their products".

    No good will come of 'smart tvs', but only because nothing good can come out of the consumer technology industry anymore.

  • My Ass. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:21AM (#38673726) Homepage Journal
    I have one of them 'smart tvs' next room, one 32 inch lg 3d tv. as smart as it goes - can connect to internet, watch youtube vids directly, connect to this service and that, and let me tell you :

    it is a bitch to use it with the remote. the moment you need to type something, you're in deep shit. guess what it needs ? right - a keyboard.

    and the moment it gets a keyboard it would become a rather oversized monitored dumb terminal pc that i cannot tinker with .... so then why shouldnt i buy/build a small media box and connect my tv to it instead ?

    all these said, its rather convenient.
  • by aglider ( 2435074 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:23AM (#38673742) Homepage

    As soon as people will start playing with TV firmwares, just like they did with smartphones [cyanogenmod.com] and routers [openwrt.org], we'll get better TVs.
    Which in turn is not what manufacturers and broadcasters want.

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:23AM (#38673752)

    the winner will be the one that allows us to cancel cable and pay for content a la netflix. set up a few tiers for content where you pay more depending on the show. kind of like spotify but with price tiers depending on the show.

    i'm paying $150 a month for cable/internet/phone and i want to cut it by half and still have a good choice of content to watch. i don't care about sports so leave that to the people who are willing to pay for it

    • by LDAPMAN ( 930041 )

      I do this now on my AppleTV. Other than sports they have all the shows I want to see.

      • Ditto. However, I really enjoy sports, but don't want to pay $160/season for NHL, NBA, etc. They need better packages.

    • I do this now with PlayOn.

      Your smart TV should be able to do DNLA. Setup PlayOn on your main computer, which streams internet video (Hulu, ESPN3, WB, TBS, Adult Swim, CNN, PBS, etc) and then your TV's and smartphones have access pretty much all the free video that the net can provide and in good quality.

      While it's not a tiered plan that gets you cable shows, you're not going to get those legitimately without paying.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:23AM (#38673754) Homepage

    Hooking up smart devices like HTPCs, game consoles, cable/fiber boxes and such I can understand. Maybe a really small appliance box to hang off the back of the TV too. But I can't for the life of me understand why tying this to the TV is wise. If it breaks, your ungodly expensive smart TV must go away for repairs. You can't upgrade to better "smarts" or a bigger TV or a projector without paying all over again. You can't use it on any other TV, you can't take it to a friend. I'd much rather take a cheap dumb TV and get the smarts some other way.

    • by Tridus ( 79566 )

      Because non-geeks want less crap in their living room, not more. They want one device that you just plug in and have it work, not a myriad of stuff you have to figure out how to connect and get to play nice together and oh god which three remotes do I need to watch a DVD?

      If a Smart TV can eliminate the set top box and the need to hook up a PC to get the Internet on your TV, it's accomplishing something useful.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        There is this magical device called a Universal remote.

        For people that have a low tech IQ there is one called "harmony" even a 6 year old can set that one up.

        Did you even try to solve the problem you have with multiple remotes?

    • by alen ( 225700 )

      TV prices have fallen off a cliff in the last 10 years and in the last 3 as well. that $1000 TV from 2 years ago is a few hundred $$ now. and HDMI ports are limited. you can get a switch but no normal person wants to switch 5 settings just to watch TV.

      as some services like netflix, hulu and amazon get commoditized it only makes sense to have them bundled with a TV and not sucking up a HDMI port

    • All those concerns aside, the market voted on this when the iMac came out (well, the idea had been around earlier, in the form of all "portable" PCs). The votes added up to Yes.

      So you've gotta remember: you're listing reasons to not buy one of these things, but none of them are reasons to not make or sell these things, because It Is Known that millions of people are going to ignore the reasons to not buy.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        All those concerns aside, the market voted on this when the iMac came out (well, the idea had been around earlier, in the form of all "portable" PCs). The votes added up to Yes.

        It's not like you got much of a choice if you want a "normal" Mac, the Mini and Pro aren't good alternatives. Apple does it, but it hasn't caught on with all the other desktops. I don't think you can say any of the TV producers are even nearly in the same position, nobody wants a smart TV the way Mac users wants a Mac. I guess we'll see if it survives the hype.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

      Yeah, I never got that either. For the $200+ extra I would spend on a smart TV, I can buy an Xbox that will not only do all the same stuff, but let me play games too.

    • As I in a previous comment (http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2612736&cid=38652618), the reason why its in the TV is so you don't have to connect a bunch of those boxes. In their current configuration I am not sure that Google TV and the like are ready for the living room but they are definitely ready for other places. Right now there is so much duplication in features in so many of the boxes that hang off a modern HDTV...Why not put them in the TV?

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      If you think that's crazy, you should hear On Point with Tom Ashbrook right now. They're talking about tying all this shit to your car!

    • I'd much rather take a cheap dumb TV and get the smarts some other way.

      How about a smart, cheap TV?

      With the hardware itself costing less and less, adding the smart bits will cost next to nothing.

  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:26AM (#38673788)

    ... it's called the internet.

  • by james_van ( 2241758 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:26AM (#38673792)
    No really, it's going to get literally ugly. There will be a few TV manufacturers that will get onboard with good design for the interface, and take the time and money to study the most effective ways to present on and control smart TV's. And then there will be the other 99% of manufacturers that will slap on glossy, shiney, gaudy interfaces that are barely usable. Couple that with the inevitable "format wars" that will start - each manufacturer will insist on their own proprietary platform for apps and set up their own licensing deals with content suppliers (except the cheap ones, they'll just license the cheapest platform they can get from one of the big players and execute it poorly). They will all also try to mimic that "App store" model, creating dozens of "walled gardens", each just being a cheap knock off of Apple and Android. And, each of them will be rather understocked due to proprietary platforms and a lack of app developers willing to deal with the headache of porting apps to 3 dozen different setups. In time, there will be a few that will rise to the top and push the others out of the way, but the next few years is gonna be the wild wild west. And it's gonna be ugly.
    • by hodet ( 620484 )
      And the best ones will rise to the top and win. What you describe is only a problem for early adopters that don't mind paying a premium to beta test crappy implementations. I will wait, let others feel the pain and spend their money. When/if I get in, I will be entering a mature market with less surprises. So go ahead, compete away. Bring on the uglies, so we can read the horrendous reviews and all laugh together in the forums as early adopters shout bloody murder about "this piece of crap they bought".
  • Why do manufacturers have to bundle shit? I want a product that does 1 thing well not a product that does several and does them half assed.
    • Why do manufacturers have to bundle shit?

      Because the new TVs are ideal for hanging on a wall (yes, my new 32" Samsung is on a wall - not even close to a table or a shelf or any other furiture), and then where do you put all the boxes?

      If I did not need a box from my IPTV provide, I would need two cables to my TV: Power and network. No boxes.

      I actually glued the IPTV box to the back of my TV to get it out of sight, and the TV has a media player built in, so I am actually getting quite close to the ideal TV...

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        Any place you like. You pull the cables through the wall.

        I like having a pc hidden in my living room. It makes me laugh when hulu says this content not available on TVs and mobile devices as I watch it on my tv.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:30AM (#38673826) Homepage

    At what point did we accept that companies have to sanction their software to run on each and every different device?

    Comcast, for example, announced that it's going to allow OnDemand streaming not only to Samsung Smart TV's but also to the iPad.

    Imagine if you read the following statement:

    Microsoft, for example, announced that it's going to allow Microsoft Office to run not only on Toshiba Laptops but also on the Sony Vaio

    Or perhaps

    Google, for example, announced that it's going to allow Google Search to run not only on Chrome, but also on Internet Explorer

    Or perhaps closer:

    AT&T, for example, announced that it's going to allow voice conversations to run not only on Panasonic phones, but also the Uniden DECT phone.

    Those would be preposterous. Yet because media companies are basically monopolies, they decide who can use what services on what devices. And we accept this. We cheer when they allow yet another device to connect to their services. We need to break up these media conglomerates, disconnect the phone monopolies from the handset manufacturers, and get the DOJ and the FAA to stop allowing mergers like Comcast - NBC that just make the problem worse.

  • TVs "just worked"?
    You turned them on, flipped tot he station you wanted, and away you went.

    I can't imagine a "smart" TV now. Gotta update the thing like an xbox360 before you can watch it? TVs that crash and require rebooting?

    Where's the advance here?

    • Well my dad just got a new 70" Sharp LCD. It's "smart."

      He watches Netflix and Youtube videos on it. He has no HTPC and no interest in buying a Roku or something to hook up to it, giving him yet another remote control to deal with. He's pretty happy with it.

  • To each their own, but I treat TVs like refridgerators, only buying when the old one breaks.

    Its no surprise that I still run a standard def CRT.

  • Mostly people purchase an overpriced over featured receiver to switch between their devices. This is dumb. With the number of ports and the onscreen menus and such available on modern bigscreens, the TV should be the center of the system. All devices should go into the TV and one lead should go to the amplifier.
    The amplifier should be dumb. Maybe just a power supply built into the subwhoofer, and all control should be turned over to the TV. Why have multiple control points / multiple remotes?

  • Both integrated VCR's and DVD's have been tried, with limited success. Oh, they sell. And I predict that smart TV's will go the same direction: a few integrated, most as separate boxes.

    • My new Samsung can record to a USB stick/disk, so it is already out there. All except their entry level TVs already has it. If you want to use it, add a $10 USB memory stick. So yes, I have it.

      Of course I can plug in a USB stick with ripped movies, picture or music on it, so the DVD player replacement is already installed. Did I forget to mention that it will access the media content over the network as well...?
  • I would say that 3D TVs have a better chance of being successful.

    If someone wants to browse the Internet and use apps in their living room, a tablet will provide a much better form factor. If they really need the functionality in their TV, a video game console will provide a better experience and already has a mature ecosystem.

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist ( 898384 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @11:54AM (#38674108)

    All these companies are complete idiots because its not a war between themselves, but a war against Cable companies.

    The problem is that cable companies are holding on to their monopolies with a white knuckled, kung-fu death grip. Any time a disruptive technology comes along that might usurp cable in the living room, the Big Telco lobbyists fire up and make life difficult for government agencies so that those agencies impose laws that almost always rule in favor of Big Telco and limit the abilities of competitive "Smart" TV services.

    Cable companies want to charge you $80+ for cable, another $15 for the box to access that cable, in addition to charging you $40+ a month for a "separate" internet service, so they get $135+ per month out of you, every month, and they want this for life. These companies also own the internet infrastructure and ensure that any disruptive services are throttled or blocked to prevent competition. I know damn well that Roger's in Canada throttles Netflix, I can download web content at max speed but I can't watch more then 5 minutes of Netflix without it pausing and buffering.

    Big Telco is uninterested in merging Cable and Internet and allowing competitive IPTV services to encroach against traditional Cable TV services. Sure Netflix is already out there and Boxee and various TVs have IPTV "apps", but overall you generally cannot access high quality (visual and audio) television except through Cable services. Netflix "HD" is not the same as Cable HD, Boxee streaming web broadcasts is nowhere near Cable HD quality. The only exception is iTunes which charges you per episode a price that would greatly exceed cable subscription rates for the equivalent amount of viewed content. Apple conveniently allowed a pricing structure that would not compete with Cable services.

    The first person to win in the "Smart TV" war is the one that allows me to stream HIGH QUALITY content over the internet without a separate cable services charge. The problem is that while Google and Apple and Microsoft and all the others try to win that war as individuals, the morons are not realize that they need to band together to break the stranglehold that Big Telco has in the living room.

    Once the monopoly for the living room content distribution is broken, then the companies can compete to offer the best form of Smart TV possible. But until then most of these Smart TV services are stillborn because the content available on them is a small sub-set of what is available on Cable, and that is how Big Telco wants it.

    • by Pope ( 17780 )

      You're forgetting that the situation here in Canada is even worse, since Shaw, Bell & Rogers also own the TV stations producing the content. No conflict of interest there, no siree....

    • by troutman ( 26963 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @12:41PM (#38674734) Homepage

      The cable companies are not entirely to blame for the high prices and lack of viewing options.

      The real reason CATV bills are too high is because of the content companies, studios, and the local TV stations. All of their contracts compel the cable operator to pick up not just one or two channels, but entire "packages" of channels, sometimes 10 or more, in order to get the channel you really want to carry. Often times, the cable operate MUST provide a channel to every single subscriber, or the studio won't let them have it at all. The contracts also have provisions about where the channels can be placed in the channel lineup. You also have channels that only a small number of customers are interested in (like certain premium sports channels or packages), but the CATV operator is contractually forced into providing to ALL customers, and into paying a hefty fee (above $3/month per customer) for a single channel.

      I have seen small market TV stations asking for over a $1/month per subscriber for the privilege of the CATV operator carrying the exact same programming they broadcast over the air for free.

      Lastly, the content providers usually want to lock the CATV companies into multiple year contacts, with price escalations. They are also putting language into the contracts specifically to forbid any sort of IP network based content distribution to the end customer.

  • A large 1080p TV with multitouch +1. Having my behavior monitored by [insert corporation here] -10.

  • by RanceJustice ( 2028040 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @02:01PM (#38675920)

    The biggest impediment to technological progress in many forms of consumer electronics and information is greed by way of lock-in. Everyone has to make their own "thing" that is wholly incompatible with everyone else's thing, even (especially?) if there is an existing player doing well in the market. Right now the cable monopolies pretty much have everyone else by the pubic hair; exclusivity contracts ensuring that many "OnDemand" shows can't be shown elsewhere. Then the big networks/broadcasts have their own gadget (Hulu/Plus), as now are Premium channels like HBOGo and their Cinemax gadget; Showtime/TMC andStarz are catching up. Somewhat agnostic players like Netflix are making headway, but running into barricades because the aforementioned won't simply license their content to Netflix but instead insist on their own player.

    All of these locked-down players and streamers need to be coded and ported for varying platforms, with varying levels of quality and openness. Will X be on both Android and iOS? How about Windows Phone and MeeGo? Windows PCs, Xbox360...Linux? Built into the "SmartTV"s of LG and Sony? How about Samsung? On BluRay players? Available online? HD or SD? Back catalog, new releases, or only items 6 months out? Commercial skips, or forced ads? Is it any wonder that people aren't emptying their pockets in droves to subscribe to these service where everything is going to be so limited?

    People can't pay a simple, reasonable fee for the content they want and generally have access to it nomatter what, when, or where they may want to watch. Right now, even for those who already have a CableTV subscription, its often easier for certain content, to simply downloaded pirated ripped versions; which come online swiftly, have a fleshed out back catalog, lack commercials, have an up-front listing of the quality, streaming is an option not a requirement, and generally no limits to how the user can watch. Until this is remedied, trying to ask people to pay extra for "SmartTVs" is going to be a farce because 99% of people aren't going to research that only Sony and Samsung TVs over $2500 are authorized to carry HBOGo etc.

    Content producers all need to get together and decide on an OPEN, unified system for placing their content online. Lets start with Netflix, the current pack leader who has already been fighting for the right to display content for years. Lets say if everyone, from broadcast, cable, movie studios and even foreign content producers went and licensed their content to Netflix, with the understanding that Netflix will 1) Collect and share revenue from subscriptions and 2) create an open source client for distribution that has a number of important features for users such as lack of commercials, HD resolutions and the ability to download as well as stream. Then we can think about "SmartTVs", where each manufacturer knew all they had to do was support the unified client. Then, no matter if you had a set-top box, home-theater PC add-in card, or software-based setup, a subscriber would still have full access to everything.

    Until hubris and greed can be let go, I don't see this happening. Thus, all the scraping about in this market will be a gimmick at best or useless at worst while clueless industry blame users and piracy and demand even more lockdown, thus beginning the circle anew. We need to show we simply won't put up with having content held hostage in this way.

  • by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Thursday January 12, 2012 @02:47PM (#38676506)
    In high school some 3 decades ago, I and a buddy both received Zenith stereo systems as presents. Just about identical, by mine was components and his was an all-in-one. His lasted about two years; mine lasted about fifteen. All a TV should have is: a great screen, good connectivity, a tuner (required by law) and nothing more. I'll upgrade the external components as needed, thanks.

Some people manage by the book, even though they don't know who wrote the book or even what book.