This year at CES I sat on a panel with some very smart thought leaders in the television space. Colin Dixon of The Diffusion Group moderated the panel, and brought in Vincent Dureau, head of TV technology at Google and Tim Alessi, head of new product development for LG, as well as executives from TiVo and Sezmi.
One very interesting point in the conversation came when an audience member asked if televisions would need a great deal more horsepower (processor and memory) to meet consumer performance requirements in the coming year.
Spokespersons from both Google and LG stated that the processor speeds and memory size would be much greater in TVs in the very near future. Their take was that consumer demand for apps (or widgets) on TVs was extremely high, and that these apps would need much more powerful TVs.
Vincent and Tim are smart guys, but I must disagree:
First, I fundamentally believe that TVs are entertainment devices that should allow consumers to lean back and enjoy. I believe the most important technology a TV can have is technology to bring a wide variety of entertainment choices and help the viewer choose the content that is best for them or their family, while keeping the experience simple.
Vincent gave an example that consumers will want to manage their Fantasy Sports Leagues on the TV. I think most consumers have multiple devices better suited for that – a smart phone, a tablet, or even a laptop. Sure, we may want a small banner at the bottom of the screen during a game that shows who is winning in the fantasy league. If you bring up a management screen to make trades, you alienate everyone who might be watching the real game. The same is true if you bring up Facebook, eBay, or other personal services while a group is watching a show.
Most widgets assume that one person can take over the screen, when in real life the TV is usually a group experience. Can you imagine passing around a keyboard so that family members can update their Facebook status or make trades in Fantasy Football on the big screen in the living while you’re watching your favorite team? And even individuals who watch TV alone have better devices to manage their apps than the TV itself.
I also believe that apps make the TV too complicated. It’s hard enough to find good things to watch, but now we’ll have to find relevant apps, enter our information into the apps, and keep them updated. Earlier this week, Chris Albrecht of NewTeeVee, wrote on this exact topic. In his post, titled, “I returned my Smart TV Because the Apps Were Dumb,” he discussed the frustrating experience of having his new Smart TV and apps “crash” over and over again. He ended up taking the Smart TV right back to the store.
Although this is still a very new market and we’re still learning a lot about consumer use, if we’re going to put apps on TV, let’s make sure we get it right. If manufacturers are convinced consumers want apps, then let’s investigate ways to make these apps easier on the consumer without increasing the cost of TVs.
Stay tuned for our next blog post where we’ll explore how options like running apps in the cloud might alleviate some of the current issues.