Saturday, November 5, 2011

Free the TV: What SmartTV Apps Can Learn From SmartPhone Apps

I'm in the market for a new television for my father. He wants me to decide between LCD, LED and Plasma. Regular and 3D. Sony, Samsung, LG, Sharp and Philips. Prices vary. I'm curious to see how the sales person at the retail store helps us differentiate between the choices. I'm expecting to hear about picture quality, power management and 3D capability - what I hear instead is wifi-enablement, internet access and apps.

Has something changed again? You bet. And I can see why. A 50+ inches screen that is web-connected sounds like an attractive idea. Both to me and to my father.

So I get a hold of Pravin Kulange, my colleague at Harbinger Systems - who has worked on all kinds of interactive applications for over a decade. Pravin is an accomplished software engineer and an avid gadget admirer. The Q and A with him goes thus:

Where is the interactivity on television going?
Vendors are trying to leverage the natural advantages of TV over other display devices: big screens, powerful sound systems and so on. For starters, search is a killer app. Users will increasingly get the ability to use TV wifi and search for video content and create custom playlists.

What kind of other apps will we see?
Social networking can coexist with entertainment. You will see sidebars that feature Facebook, Twitter and other updates.  And of course, there are games you can play from the remote. 

How about collaboration?  
Of course. Panasonic and Samsung’s Skype enabled television’s are already available.Sony and VIZIO will be shipping Skype enabled HDTVs later this year.

How is the app market evolving?
I think Samsung is by far the leader - although the overall SmartTV app market is way behind its SmartPhone cousin. That said, Google TV with its Android platform will make rapid gains in this space. I recently heard that Philips, Sharp and LG have announced an alliance for an open specification that will help developers build interactive apps. Likewise, Google and Sony will be working tightly together. The critical mass of applications must come together rapidly for this market to take off.

What about the input side?
TV remotes will increasingly have qwerty keyboards. Besides, users will increasingly use their smartphones as TV remotes and input devices.

How about a feature like Samsung's AllShare, so your TV simply takes over a video stream being shown on your iPad?
That is another direction to watch - this might make SmartTV apps redundant. But I think users will prefer a seamless experience where the app resides on TV, not on a computer.

Can TV apps rival tablet apps someday?
Well, today they are fairly lightweight - owing to limited processing power. But I see no reason why TV won't grow in processing power. Not to mention the cloud playing a big role in making apps snazzy.

Now my head is reeling. The possibilities are endless. Where will the smarts reside? In the TV? The Blu-ray player? The set-top box? or simply a tablet?

Buying TV has changed for sure.


  1. A "fully integrated Apple television" was one of Steve Jobs' final visions and that is already happening. Apple SmartTV is on the production lines( and overall the SmartTV thing is estimated to be a $100 Billion Revenue Opportunity for Apple by Apple.

  2. Technology today is fast changing and there are lots of things right now that can basically do almost the same thing. So we just have to have smart decisions on what to purchase.