What you describe as Smart TV is essentially Internet access. Current TVs are even beginning to brag about having quad-core CPUs. They are essentially computers integrated into large monitors and running very limited operating systems that support dedicated applications.
This is not to say that your central thesis is wrong. The changes in viewing habits are very real, particularly the expectation of viewing content seamlessly across multiple screens. The mistake is attaching too much of the television paradigm (time-synchronized content viewed passively) onto the experience. The paradox is that while we are allowing extremely deep immersion into content we are also encouraging the development of extremely short attention spans to skim across that content.
What is the end state? I have no clue. At one point I was calculating how much of my life span I would have to allocate to watch all of the movies that Netflix offered. I haven't done that calculation for a while, but I am almost certain that it now exceeds that lifespan. That has to put some kind of a limit on the growth curve of entertainment content.
Very good points made in this article, I think. It's not clear to me why the PC and TV categories should remain separate, although if the manufacturers don't get their act together, they may just remain separate.
The trend to multiple sources of content, available to anyone, is predictable, and already starting to happen. My expectation is that even companies such as ESPN (mentioned in the article), HBO, and other such staunch MVPD walled-garden holdouts, will be re-evaluating their options and finding less restrictive ways to get their content to consumers.
It will be most interesting to see whether or when the Internet TV device makers, who now provide a pathetically tiny set of options to their users (considering what can be available over the Internet), will consider to broaden their appeal. I'm talking not just about the AppleTV and Roku type of STBs, but also the "smart TVs" themselves.
TV manufacturers have been walled in to their self-constructed silo from the time TV signals were first broadcast. U.S. TV makers watched as broadcast gave way to cable, and now to Internet TV. During all that time, the communications industry was completely made over with the wire Plain ole Telephone service (POTS) giving way to a wireless handheld device that today drives the behavior of more people on the planet than any other gadget a person owns. What changes have occurred in the Plain ole Television over the years? First, vacuum tubes gave way to semiconductors that gave way to integrated circuits. The bulky TV cathode ray tube gave way to LCD/LED displays (plasma and those cumbersome projection screens showed up briefly in this evolution). And, most recently, the sets got connected to the Internet. But throughout all that time the function never changed: a passive medium displaying moving images and sound. Contrast that with the POTS phoned, the original function of which was to provide audio over long distances, and the contrast is huge. The amount of functions a person can do with his handheld device--that began life as a phone--is almost limitless. The other contrast is the evolution of the manufactures of television, which curiously chased the money (lower labor costs), leaving the U.S. in the late 60s and 70s for Japan, then to Korea, and now to China. At every step along the way in this geographic migration, very little was added to the function of the TV other than cheaper labor and better packaging. Contrast that to the POTS phone, which saw it renaissance in North America, beginning at Motorola with the mobile phone the size of a shoe and culminating with the iPhone. Blackberry played its role of adding e-mail to the basic phone function. And somewhere in there texting should be mentioned as the other driving function. While the phone went out into the world reinventing itself, the television stayed home and did nothing. Is it no wonder that the industry built up around this passive device is in such disarray now?
allowing users to view content via the Internet previously only accessible by a cable TV box or over-the-air TV broadcast.
Not really. You have to subscribe to calbe, Netflix, Hulu, and have an app for every netowrk you want to watch a show on. Netflix and Hulu only put on TV show seasons for a short time. Same with broadcast apps. So to make sure you don;t miss anything, you still have to record an entire season yourself. that's esepcialy try if you "power watch" a whole season one show after another. There are gaps. I'm convinced it's a conspiracy.
There there's live sports. If you want to see your local team's baseball game, you have to watch cable. No live video even if you pay for it. MLB blocks local teams.
Not really. You have to subscribe to calbe, Netflix, Hulu, and have an app for every netowrk you want to watch a show on. Netflix and Hulu only put on TV show seasons for a short time. Same with broadcast apps.
This is what gives the Internet-TV device makers the appearance of being in bed with the cable companies (they may well be, although I have no proof). Because you know, I don't have to have any "apps," other than a web browser, to navigate to any of these Internet TV sites, and many more such sites that the specialized boxes can't even see. Simply by connecting a PC to the TV screen. There is absolutely no reason why a smart TV, with built-in IP stack and web browser, couldn't do the same thing, for much lower cost than my PC. (Think embedded Raspberry Pi, for starters.)
The content owners certainly don't want to make their stuff impossible to access. The more flexibility the device makers give their users, the more optional distribution methods the content owners will create. Instead, the device makers appear to be trying to corral people into only those few pay-Internet-TV sites that they have annointed (or sites that have annointed the CE manufacturer?). Consumers should wise up and take control.
jmcleod wrote about TV's lack of evolution compared to phones
JMO/YMMV: Personally, I like the basic function of a nice LCD TV, i.e., to show movies and occasionally TV for the rare occasions when there's something worth watching. Humans have been gathering to watch dramatic and/or comedic productions since ancient times, and TV simply brings this into one's home so you can watch visual arts every evening instead of waiting for traveling players to come to town. Indeed some of the best early TV was Vaudeville routines adapted to the small screen. Unfortunately, they ran out of material quickly and TV has deteriorated since.
IMO, the problem with "Smart TV" as it's used today is that TV manufacturers are constantly trying to come up with ways to get people to throw away the box they bought 3 years ago to replace the CRT they bought 15 years earlier. So they try to come up with all this complex gadgetry which is way too involved for most of the TV audience, who just want to watch movies and dramas and comedies and sports, and don't want to figure out how to interface to the Internet. As technologists, we see Smart TV and think it's pretty neat what they can do now. However, to most of the public there's nothing there to justify tossing the box they bought just 3 years ago. They'll be ready in 7-12 years to buy something else -- manufacturers will just have to wait.
By the way, the term "Smart TV" is not new. It refers to the style of USA TV shows back in the 1950s and 1960s that didn't insult viewers' intelligence, or specifically to Jack Paar's version of the Tonight Show (before Johnny Carson).
So they try to come up with all this complex gadgetry which is way too involved for most of the TV audience, who just want to watch movies and dramas and comedies and sports, and don't want to figure out how to interface to the Internet.
While it's true that some smart TVs add on silly gadgetry, I think mostly the term means the TV is connected to the Internet. (But only in extremely limited ways.)
There's nothing about Internet connectivity that should detract in any way from the "normal" TV watching experience you describe, except to give the users a whole lot more choice and the ability to watch on demand. Most people by now know how easy it is to use "bookmarks" in a web browser, for sites you navigate to frequently. That's all it takes. Click on the bookmark, choose your show, and watch.
The great problem with the television is that it hasn't remade itself to take advantage of the technological advances going on around it. It has remained a passive viewing device with little innovation in its functionality. Its greatest contribution to user functionality was the invention of the remote control and even that was produced with no regard to usability. This lack of our-of-the-box thinking has led to the smart TV with two remote controls, one for the pay TV function and a separate one for the Smart TV function. Considering that Samsung is the leading TV manufacturer, you would think that they would have taken the lead in making a contribution to improved user functionality. I have three Samsung TV. Each of their user interfaces for the Smart TV is different. Doesn't that scream lack of vision. LG for its part decided to buy enhanced user functionality by purchasing Web OS from HP, who got it from Palm, who got it from Apple. It will be interesting to see if LG can leverage their investment or let it languish under the lethargic TV mentality of continually refining the viewing box.