TV's comeback special
Manufacturers are upping their game as service providers enter the on-demand space
Blogs | 08 Jun 2012 :
Recent weeks have seen a number of new developments in the on-demand space that could make your TV the most exciting device you're probably not using to its full potential. Netflix announced a revamp of its streaming technology and a new look; Xbox LIVE added 35 new content partners (don't get excited, none of them are available in Ireland); UPC announced its entry into on-demand content, shedding its image as a strictly 'dumb pipe' service provider; and Sky teased us with its NOWTV offering, the details of which remain under wraps until later this summer. Let's not even get into what the designers and engineers in Cupertino have up their sleeves.
Going by that lot you could say counter that the on-demand space is still driven by a mix of PC and mobile applications, but the time of connected TVs at affordable prices is almost at hand, returning the television to its position as the most important entertainment device in the household. A grand claim? Maybe, but let's explore the argument in favour.
Last week I was introduced to RTE's new on-demand TV app running on a Samsung 46" Smart TV. The app, the first of its kind in Ireland, is part of RTE's new digital strategy to push out content across as many devices as possible, embracing all major platforms. Readers probably already use RTE Player, maybe one of its mobile flavours as well, and will be aware of its catalogue and general quality of service. What struck me most about the demonstration I attended was how well Samsung's own Smart TV platform managed to replicate the experience of navigating with a keyboard on a standard remote control. The less steep the learning curve the better and I think connected TV is about ready for mainstream acceptance, so long as the kind of controllers Sony has been pushing with its Google TV-powered
offering and Logitech's abortive keyboard-based Revue
vanish from memory.
A few months ago I was asked about what connected TV set I would recommend as a gift. I quickly said 'none' and I would stick to that decision today, but it would be a much softer 'no' than six months ago when I endorsed Apple TV, a cut-price PC or media streaming box as more cost-effective solutions. I'm still not sold on voice and gesture control - neither agree with me for some reason - but the technology and the price will get to a point where feature-rich TVs will occupy the same space in tech discourse as smartphone or tablets. Social media, VoIP applications and broadcasters sharing real estate in a way that complements each other and doesn't divert the attention to a second screen on your desktop or mobile device.
As with the mobile space the success of TV will come down not to spec but content - a lesson the likes of UPC will learn the hard way. The next question is should consumers start considering 3D in their next TV purchase. On that the answer is a simple and resounding 'no'.