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Opinion: Smart TV not living up to its potential

Posted: 11 Jan 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smart TV? interfaces? multi-screen?

EE Times correspondent Junko Yoshida breaks down the various initiatives of leading TV makers in an effort to carve a place in the ever widening smart TV market. A lot of these so-called innovations are fascinating and confusing at the same time, Yoshida opines.

The original motivation behind smart TV was that it promised universal content search for TV viewing across Internet, TV broadcast, video-on-demand streaming and social media. Ed Border, senior analyst for TV systems research at IHS, said "the basic need for an environment where consumers can browse all the linear TV and Internet content, and choose one they want to watch" still exists, and "Google, Samsung, LG, Panasonic and others are fighting for this."

The power of smart TV search "will lie in the content deals and aggregation that platforms can achieve," explained Border. At a time when smart TV remains fragmented, no one has come up with a smart TV with complete control over the growing amount of content, apps and services.

Rather than drawing more attention to its incomplete video content search capability, smart TV advocates are now shifting focus to peripheral matters like user interfaces.

LG Electronics CTO Scott Ahn, for example, observed: "Smart TVs have many smart features. But the way consumers interact with smart TV isn't smart." LG's solution is a "magic remote" for its proprietary smart TV. The remote "lets consumers write the numbers to change channels, allows users to speak to the remote instead of a TV, or lets users to do one finger gesture, instead of strenuous arm gestures," Ahn explained.

Meanwhile, Shiro Kitajima, president of Panasonic's North America unit, sees ease of access to content as the big issue for smart TV. Panasonic is promoting the "My home TV screen" that aims to provide TV broadcasts, Web content and personal media (photos and video) "on a single menu page." Panasonic also is touting the ability to let each user create his or her own page on a smart TV. A tiny camera integrated into the TV would recognise a user and change the screen according to his or her original set-up.

Through its partnership with YouTube, Panasonic also is addressing multi-screen issues by ensuring that YouTube clips from a smartphone or tablet cane be easily viewed on its Viera TV. "As long as the smart TV and a tablet or a smartphone are on the same Wi-Fi network at home, the mobile device and the smart TV are paired automatically. No QR code or pin code is necessary. All you need to do is to press one button," said Francisco Varela, YouTube's global director of platform partnerships.

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