Smart TV success will rely on putting TV first

The future of Smart TV will always see movies and TV put ahead of apps, games or browsing the web, according to research carried out by Strategy Analytics and delivered at an event held in London yesterday.

The event was run by Cisco, which launched the Linksys EA6500 high-speed 802.11ac router with cloud access

Peter King, Director of Connected Home Devices, give his predictions of the future of wireless networking in the home, including how the needs of the home user will change between now and 2016, especially when it comes to the Smart TV.

Wireless is the future

According to Peter, around 71% of homes in Western Europe currently have a wireless network, connecting an average of 5.8 devices per household (such as a game console, Apple TV, desktop PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet). This is expected to rise to 10.2 devices by 2016.

In addition, a third of all televisions sold today have some form of Internet connectivity in them, with almost 60% of TVs produced by Sony, Panasonic and Samsung having the feature. Every Blu-ray player on sale now is Internet connected, while most consoles offer connectivity via Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

Beyond the speed of the Internet connection coming into the home, expected to rise considerably as BT expands its network to allow more FTTC (Fibre-To-The-Cabinet) connections, the next most important factor will be the speed of the wireless network itself. This is essential for the fast internal transfer of data and media from one device to another. According to King, 802.11n has already become mainstream, with 80% of devices released this year supporting the standard.

Although wired connections can offer faster and more reliable connections, wireless is always going to be preferred for its convenience and the lack of unsightly wires.

Heavy demand

With high definition 3D video and 4K HD video coming in the future, there will be huge demands placed upon the wireless networks of the future, according to King. There will also be smart appliances wanting a slide of the bandwidth. King explained a bit of history: “Ten years ago, people were trying to develop the Internet fridge. It was far too early and a lot was made of the fridge calling up to restock itself with beer. Fun was made of it that set things back by years.

“Bosch, Whirlpool and GE are piloting trials now with an emphasis on smart energy consumption. Intelligent appliances are an expression of lifestyle for those wanting to be responsible. This time they’re not going to go away again. They’re here to stay.”

King predicts that 90% of traffic over the Internet will be video, including the growing trend of OTT (Over The Top) video that will compete head on with the traditional cable, terrestrial and satellite service providers. This will happen as the quality of content improves, including offering access to movies quicker, and TV shows being accessible soon after being broadcast, or even before.

Content over broadband also allows for portability between devices, as already offered by services like Netflix. You can stop watching a movie part way through on one device and pick up exactly where you left off on another. It makes it easy to swap from smartphone to TV or TV to tablet, with access that travels with you.

Although OTT can be considered a threat to the likes of Sky, King was keen to point out that they won’t just lie down and die. King stated: “Sky will not allow other people to come in and eat their lunch. They will adopt OTT services themselves. Sky Now is their response, where you won’t need to subscribe to their TV offering to enjoy their content.”

Then you have YouTube, YouView and Microsoft is also seeking to get into the market via its Xbox console. King also added that a TV built by Apple is “going to happen for sure”, while launching an attack on Google for its own entrance into the TV world.

Google TV; third time lucky?

“Google brought out Google TV version one in October 2010 and it bombed big time. One reason was the whole user experience was wrong. The second is that they got the pricing wrong. Now they’re back with Google TV version two, with Sony. They probably still won’t get it right now, but by version three they’ll get it right.”

And how did the likes of Google get it wrong? King offered a reason: “The TV itself will remain a lean back, shared-experience device, preferably enjoyed with a beer or a coffee. Users don’t want loads of menus or searching. Sociable and media-related content is what consumers want on the TV screen and interactivity will be enabled via the second screen [tablets and smartphones].

“The killer app will always be TV; movies and video. Smart TVs simplify access to enhanced functions viewers want, such as catch-up TV, and provide more content options for when there’s nothing on right now.”

The user experience goes beyond simply finding content quickly, with a lot of apps simply not well-suited to a TV screen, with King citing issues like text legibility when sitting far away from the TV, to the cumbersome process of entering text with a remote control.

King also found that, of 760 Smart TV owners Strategy Analytics surveyed, most people didn’t want to use different apps to the ones they were already familiar with. “This is a mistake made by Google and Sony. For example, 25 categories for content? Far too many when you’re sitting on the sofa looking for something quickly.”, King explained.

But it’s by no means doom and gloom for the Smart TV, as the consensus is that they’ll soon become a part of most homes. They will play a huge role in providing the on-demand content increasingly being demanded by consumers. King offered some more good news, stating that although its research had found that people might not consider a Smart TV at the time of buying a new television, those that do go on to buy one are nearly always appreciative of the extra choice on offer.

Perhaps in good time, and if manufacturers can improve the user experience, consumers will begin to become more comfortable trying out more relevant and better designed apps.

About author
Involved in tech since 1990, from selling mobile phones and computers, to writing about them for trade and consumer publications, such as Mobile News, What Mobile, Know Your Mobile and Stuff. If writing about mobiles wasn't exciting enough, being paid to watch TV during work hours is the icing on the cake. Jonathan on Google+

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