The Smart TV Is Dead! Long Live The Smart TV Apps!


On the way to a Boxee-fied television, it appears View Sonic has come to the same conclusion I have regarding Internet-connected displays. From GigaOm:

‘Smart TV’ has not achieved the consumer acceptance or market expectation… that was forecasted over the last couple years. In addition, consumer spending for Smart TV’s in general has experienced a significant slow down as the economy has slowed.

Just because industry is pumping Smart TV doesn’t mean we’re buying. At least not in the numbers the manufacturers may have hoped for. Granted, View Sonic is a minor player in this space… But we’ve been down this path before as manufacturers attempt to shorten the consumer television refresh cycle. And this mirrors the tepid response we witnessed to 3D TVs in 2010. That’s not to say folks aren’t interested in three dimensional content or Internet apps. But they’re less likely to invest in a high end product (sooner) to get those features. In fact, while I’d say we’re just getting started harnessing web content on the television, millions of Apple TVs and Rokus have been sold – as well as presumably even more Internet-connected Blu-ray players. Further, several cable and satellite providers (or their proxies, like TiVo) are bringing over-the-top video (like YouTube) and social Internet features (such as Twitter & Facebook) to the big screen. So why would I buy a new TV? Especially one that has a tendency to reboot.

24 thoughts on “The Smart TV Is Dead! Long Live The Smart TV Apps!”

  1. People that really want a “connected TV” just spend a few hundred bucks and get a PC. Until someone comes up with a reason why an all-in-one solution is intrinsically better, I don’t see Smart TVs becoming desirable, other than as value added functionality when choosing between two otherwise equally priced and equipped TVs.

  2. I would like to see the average TV lifetime pre-HD. My guess is we hit a short lived time where people were replacing their TVs at a faster rate to get the HD set, but now we are falling back into the typical cycle (and a down part of that due to the slow economy). And the manufacturers are just oblivious to the fact that everyone replaced their TVs at once was in effect a bubble.

  3. People hold onto their televisions for a really long time. It’s not something that I’d want to replace whenever there’s some new fad in web services. Nor do I want yet another Internet-connected device that I might have to worry about keeping updated with security patches. I’m not even optimistic that they would receive regular updates. Television manufacturers aren’t traditionally in the business of maintaining software for long periods of time. I also don’t see these televisions as being viable platforms for third-party development; it’s much easier to target a Roku or Google TV box than it is to deal with various television models.

    No thanks. I don’t want a “smart TV”. I want a dumb one that’s basically just a display with a remote control. I couldn’t even care less if it lacked a built-in tuner.

  4. I agree; even though I seem to have gotten past the worst of the RVR, I regret buying a smart TV. I should have stuck to a dumb box with an easily replaceable / interchangeable external box like the Roku. The TV is going to last at least 5 years in which time I doubt it will be able to keep up with streaming technology.

  5. James, same here. In fact, my “TV” that I bought 5 years ago is just a monitor, because at the time it was the least expensive 1080p model, and I didn’t see any point in time where I would be watching TV live, be it cable or OTA.

    In fact, I have to admit I’m still a bit puzzled that there are not more tuner-less dumb TVs out there. Very few people have a TV hooked up directly to cable or antenna directly, and if manufacturers really wanted to sell these Smart TVs, it might be better to get rid of the tuner completely and instead focus on the Internet services provided in order to bring costs down.

  6. “Incidentally, we did buy a new TV for the bedroom a few weeks back… and passed on the Internet upsell.”

    I do hope you sprung for the dealer undercoating.

    “Just because industry is pumping Smart TV doesn’t mean we’re buying. At least not in the numbers the manufacturers may have hoped for.”

    Who coulda thunk it? PT Barnum is spinning over in his grave.

    (Now is probably the precise time for Cupertino to enter the smart TV market. Their ad team could sell ice to eskimos.)

  7. “I would like to see the average TV lifetime pre-HD. My guess is we hit a short lived time where people were replacing their TVs at a faster rate to get the HD set”

    The cycle was even more ultra-accelerated for smart buyers.

    I went far smaller than desired on my first HD dumb-panel, knowing full well that I could save money by purchasing again in 24 months once my desired dumb-panel size had dropped like a stone in price, and knowing that merely upgrading from SD would keep me hedonically happy for the interim.

  8. In the living room, I kept my last TV for > 10 years, which is typical for me, and only moved from a 4:3 rear projection 45″ Mitsubishi (with the little “HD upgrade” thingy attached to the back with some stiff wire) to a big Toshiba and spent a LOT of money on it. Not planning to replace it any time soon either. But yes, I’ve been messing around with numerous external boxes (Tivo HD, Apple TV, Roku, a Samsung B/R…) to add capabilities to it. The remote for this TV is kept under the TV in a drawer and often the batteries are dead since we NEVER use it. Its just a display.

    In the bedroom we upgraded more recently and more frequently since the last TV we bought there was relatively cheap, being later on the pricing curve. And this one does have apps on it. But they’re slow and limited and we really don’t use them. Again we treat it as just a monitor. Can’t imagine doing anything different.

    I’m highly skeptical of the idea that Apple could come out with some expensive, better integrated TV that they could convince me to be even though I’m heavily into the Apple lifestyle for precisely this reason. Are they going to integrate a DVR with Cable Card support in the TV? If not, then its not really of interest to me and will just be another monitor. Sure it would be nice to be able to hit the TV with Air Play from my phone and have it automatically start streaming my stuff without having to switch inputs, but seriously, how often would I really use that and how much would I pay/risk to have that work slightly better? And isn’t there an approach using say HDMI-CEC that could accomplish the same thing?

  9. That’s silly. “Smart TVs” aren’t dead; consumers just won’t pay a premium for them. They remain a way to distinguish your commodity product from hundreds of nearly identical competitors.

  10. Except every vendor has an app platform nearly identical to their competitors. And some use the same exact platform like Yahoo or Google. I’m willing to pay top dollar for the right premium features and I obviously love gadgetry, but Internet apps built into the TV doesn’t move me. Based on experiences with my Vizio set, I’d say in some cases it’s actually a liability. TiVo/Best Buy and Google are a bit more progressive and trying to integrate the “connected” experience into “television” watching, versus just tacking on apps, and that’s worth keeping an eye on. Otherwise, I think most folks will get their Internet fix in other ways or solely stream Netflix as Jeremy writes.

    As far as ‘dead’ goes, I wouldn’t take it too literally. Was trying to make a play on the old saying suggesting we so want the ‘smart’ but we don’t want it as currently delivered within televisions.

  11. Your rebooting TV proves they obviously still have room to distinguish themselves. For example, a TV that doesn’t reboot on its own would be a significant improvement right there.

    Then once you get beyond these primitive “smart TVs”, you have actual application platforms like googletv (with honeycomb) and boxee.

    I don’t know about you, but I would love a TV with boxee or XBMC built in. Assuming it was stable and not a piece of crap, obviously.

  12. Rodalpho,

    Sure in theory, but the problem is they’d have to track things at the same pace that the STB guys do. For example, I expect MKV support, something that a couple of years ago wouldn’t have been required. And AC-3 audio. And subtitles. Even the Roku which does a halfway decent job of this stuff isn’t really that good here, and its easy to find files that it doesn’t support. And there would have to be a commitment to adding support over time, something the TV vendors aren’t used to. And given the low cost CPU’s they put in their TV’s, its possible that they simply would NOT be able to add a new codec since they require hardware support to be able to keep up.

    Seems like a game they would lose at some point. Still I take your point. Would be nice in theory.

  13. “I don’t know about you, but I would love a TV with boxee or XBMC built in. Assuming it was stable and not a piece of crap, obviously.”

    I think that is the point being made in the article; or at least part of the point. In the few years that TVs with integrated apps/widgets has been available, no one has really got it right and at least one manufacturer is suggesting it isn’t going to happen.

    As good as I believe Samsung TVs are – five LCDs throughout the house – their implementation of InfolLink/Yahoo! Widgets is wretched. At the end of the day, I believe stand alone devices that are low priced, easily upgraded and more focused on a single function will prove to be a better way to get Internet content to televisions.

  14. That’s certainly the case now, but imagine a TV with integrated Roku.

    Not something like roku, not a bastardized form of roku implemented in flash widgets half-assed by the lowest bidders off-shored to india or romania, but an actual roku built right into the TV, with software updates coming from roku. Roku can build, market, and sell a retail box for $70– how low could they get it integrated at the factory in mexico?

    Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of that extra box?

  15. “Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of that extra box?”

    No. No, it wouldn’t.

    This really ain’t so complicated. You’ll go through three or more generations of extra boxes while your flat-panel is still a fully functional flat-panel.

    Now, I understand why flat-panel manufacturers would like to have you upgrade your flat-panel every time you need a new generation of extra box. But only suckers fall for that particular con game. (Which is why it’s high time for Cupertino to enter the market.)

    I mean, seriously, if you just want to waste money, aren’t cocaine and hookers a better value for your disposable income?

  16. I’m not sure what the definition of “smart TV” is.

    My Vizio has a Netflix “app” which is excellent and all that I really need and use. It’s simple and easy to use.

    I see no need for other apps that are better suited for PCs. I only want apps on the TV that facilitate me watching additional content easily.

  17. Yes, please give us cheap, dumb HDTVs so I can play with different, inexpensive internet-connected boxes.

    I love my Tivos, but they suffer from old, low-power hardware that can barely keep up with being a DVR.

    Newer devices like my Blu-ray player or a Roku or AppleTV do a much better job of streaming Netflix or Amazon or Hulu+ or, etc.

    And considering all the above cost under $100 each it’s easier to dump them when something better comes along (rather than the $1000 HDTV)

  18. We have smart TVs, smart Blu-ray players, smart DVRs and lots of stand alone devices including Boxee Box, Roku, Apple TV, Revue (Google TV), & HTPCs to list a few.

    All in an effort to connect our living rooms to the Internet.

    So far I would say none of the combined products are doing that great of a job (smart TVs, blu-ray players, & DVRs) and many of the stand alone products are not much better.

    There is much all around that needs improvement and hopefully over the next few years these devices will do just that. However the trend is clear we are going to connect our living rooms to the Internet.

    If you look at the top 5 TV manufactures all of their upper lines are connected sets. If you want to say they are “smart” or not is up for debate however if anyone wants a higher end set it is going to have the ability to be connected to the Internet. If you look at CNets top rated TVs they all are connected sets.

    So I am guessing “smart” TVs are hear to stay.

    I think there is room for both extremes. Monitors with nothing but a power and video connection and TVs with everything built in. I personally have a 50″ Plasma TV that I only us as a monitor (I don’t even use the built in speakers). But at this point in time if I had to replace it it would have to be with a “smart” TV.

  19. “Yes, please give us cheap, dumb HDTVs so I can play with different, inexpensive internet-connected boxes.”

    Folks upthread have mentioned ditching the tuners. And I’d go further and suggest ditching the speakers.

    If a manufacturer did that, and in return gave me an extra couple of inches of screen space, or an extra HDMI input, or some dollars back, they’d get my business.

    I just want the panel itself and the I/O ports.

    (The one “smart” thing I’d happily pay extra for is if the panel supported a published API to query and control remote control functions via IP over the LAN. And, no, I’m not talking about HDMI-CEC. That’s not what I want. I want the TV to run the same kind of simple HTML webserver that a $20 router runs.)

  20. Yeah, and it’d be great if they standardized on IR and RF remote control codes too. But that battle was lost long ago.

  21. I’d rather see Smart TV Apps in cable / dbs provider set top boxes. This way they get updates over the network and when the hardware changes you can upgrade just the box… not the entire panel. Also this leaves all the “good stuff” like Live TV, DVR and Apps all on 1 HDMI input, controlled by 1 remote.

    Of course that means some of these providers start making good performing apps and issuing decent hardware.

  22. I only got a Smart TV as part of my 3DTV. The TV cost $348. For a Smart TV only it costs $279. At that price, I’d just buy a $50 Roku player. I think the reason people aren’t buying Smart TVs is because they are very limited. Neither my TV nor my 3D Bluray Player have HBO Go though they both have Amazon, Netflix, and Youtube. Roku on the other hand has a lot more channels to offer, though I imagine 90% of it is crap.

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