Once upon a time, there were TVs, phones and computers. Each one had a purpose: The TV was… um, a TV, the phone was a nifty little mobile voice communicator and the PC a white box with a white monitor. Oh, and there was something called the Internet, where the PC was hooked on.
Things started to change. Now, the Internet was available on the mobile phone. The PC got slimmer and turned into a laptop and then a netbook. At the same time, there was the iPhone (and a year later Android broke the surface). Then, there were the pads. And the iPad. And Android tablets. All of a sudden, people started ditching their netbooks and going for tablets, and quite soon we will see magical things like this.
However, there is somebody left out of the party: The TV. Strangely enough, the TV is still a TV. It has slimmed down to a few mm, it has grown and stretched, but has not yet morphed into something ubiquitous and intelligent like the PC and the phone. Google TV (its first iteration) has failed and the Smart TV is perceived as a TV that can play Netflix, BBC iPlayer and YouTube. That’s odd, since the TV has some unique features vs the tablet:
– More real estate: A 42” television not only is visible from everybody in the room, it can squeeze much more information for the human eye
– More usable: You can control a TV single-handed from your couch with a Nintendo-style remote control; the tablet, you must hold it with one hand and tickle it with the other hand.
– More power: Any TV set has more internal space and cooling provision to house much more powerful hardware than your smartphone or tablet. Hard disks or high capacity flash storage can easily fit in a TV and you can physically upgrade the device via modules or PCMCIA slots.
– More connections: USB, HDMI, WiFi, Ethernet, DTV…
– More home applications: A TV can be a “home server”: A NAS to store all your media content or a sync master for your DECT phone and contacts.
– More software applications: Whatever applications run on your smartphone and tablet can be hosted in your TV set, taking advantage of the huge display and superb ergonomics of your couch and remote control. Stuff you do or wish you could do everyday around the house can be done through the TV. Some examples: Video surveillance, a look at the online press, asynchronous social media updates (Facebook, twitter), smart home dashboard (A/C, heating, security) and video calls.
So, why is the TV left behind?
Phones evolved, got bigger screens and applications merged into the daily routine of using your phone. The tablet is an evolution of the netbook, so, people who have had a netbook switch to a tablet because they can see the added value of the new form factor of their iPad. They also have a shorter lifecycle and it’s easier to switch to a new device sooner than later. However, a TV is a TV is a TV. In the mindset of the consumer, it is made for watching stuff, not doing stuff. It’s static, it’s on or off, in one word, it is a passive device.
The challenge for the consumer electronics industry is to bring to the market a fresh product, a concept that will add value to your couch, not just make a new generation of televisions and profit on the sales volume. Revenue can stem from the software applications after a smart TV has exited the store, in other words, from the home cloud.