For a long time television was a simple device that had one purpose: deliver programming and information to viewers in their living rooms. Even in this age with tablets and smartphones vying for viewers’ attention, television still dominates. Data currently show Americans spend several times more time per week devouring content from television compared to Netflix and other online programming sites. It is not surprising that major tech companies are competing to disrupt the stranglehold of traditional electronics manufacturers like Sony or Samsung over the television.
Higher Interactivity and Connectivity
Smart TVs or internet connected television sets that can be used to access content through applications, provided the opening for tech companies to invade the TV space. Smart TVs are a new frontier and huge rewards would go to the victor who can capture this hub for the connected living room. Theoretically, TV manufacturers may have the potential to get a head start in this race as they already build the hardware, the set itself. If they can provide the entire interface, from DVR to video streaming apps, consumers could possibly reduce the need for the current set top boxes. Unfortunately every attempt has fallen flat on the market as each company created their own interface and inevitably each system could not provide the all-encompassing experience that Microsoft gave desktops or Apple with iOS.
Equilibrium Towards Fewer Platforms
Differentiation often leads to the emergence of one or two systems that would dominate the field. There were several PC manufacturers that worked on their own operating systems before Microsoft’s Windows united the different hardware under one software system, the same evolution happened in smartphones with different manufacturers releasing their own mobile system until Google’s Android and Apple overtook everyone else. The same process will likely happen with connected TVs, the only questioning remaining is which company would prevail?
Google TV was supposed to be the answer to that question. Its search functionality could unify many content sources and it already had an operating system that was proven to unite different manufacturers. Google had the right idea when it introduced Google TV in 2010 but with weak manufacturer support, lack of apps and an interface that did not catch on with consumers, Google TV did not live up to expectations and has largely been written off.
One looming specter in the smart TV sphere is Apple. While Apple has its own set top box set, rumors have abounded about Apple releasing a full-fledged smart TV with the possibility of Siri functionality, App Store access and connectivity with the iPhone or the iPod. Recent reports have pushed the release of the so-called iTV to late 2013 but it is conceivable that Apple will end up disrupting the market and become the biggest player among several competing manufacturers.
Another tech giant in the running is Microsoft. Of the three tech companies, Microsoft has the advantage of already having a presence in the living room through its Xbox 360 gaming console. Microsoft has sold a total of 70 million Xbox 360 units to date and this could be the gateway to providing a unified system. It certainly seems like Microsoft is building up to that future as it has shifted the focus of the Xbox from hardcore gaming to more casual games with Kinect, its Xbox Live services could be accessed through Windows Phone and its tablet Surface. The software company is even planning to release an Xbox set-top box that is designed to provide access to core entertainment services. Connecting all these devices is one operating system, Windows 8.