The Battle for your Living Room: Apps and the Smart TV

Pictured: The newest high-tech war zone.

There’s a burgeoning war going on, it’s become no more apparent than at CES 2012. Players from every corner of tech and entertainment have been jumping on the Smart TV bandwagon with all guns blazing. Just as “phones” made the jump to “smartphones”, the consumer electronic industry is pushing to bring a complete, connected entertainment solution to big screens everywhere. But just as the smartphone revolution didn’t happen overnight, the smart “10-foot experience” is still in the early phases.

When Apple TV was launched in 2007, it wasn’t met with the  high consumer enthusiasm typical of products designed in Cupertino. When Google TV was announced at Google I/O in the fall of 2010, the early glow of potential soon faded as Logitech abandoned efforts on the Google TV-powered Revue and Sony slashed prices for its TVs using the platform. Then you also have to look at products like Roku, Boxee, or Samsung’s Media Hub. While each of which has seen potential, the crown is still up for grabs.

So what have we some trends that emerged around CES?

Better Hardware – With thin bezels, super sharp screens, and some shiny new silicon, the next generation of tubes are being equipped to enable interaction. Take for example the Samsung ES8000 and its integrated webcam and voice control features. Okay, we’re years away from Minority Report style control, but it remains that D-Pad navigation is slowly going the way of the rotary phone.

Multi-Screen Strategy – As many speculate, Apple may soon be pushing for more multi-screen nirvana by adding the TV to the smart device, tablet, and notebook portfolio. With Ericsson out of the picture, Sony will also be able to push a similar offering. All the while, LG and Samsung have been manufacturing the multiple screens and are moving towards a unified experience. Another aspect to this is enabling easy content sharing amongst multiple devices and screens, which is where DLNA comes into play. In short, having DLNA compliant devices allows consumers to wireless share their data on their home networks, which in turn helps them to do things like send pictures to their printer or stream music from their MP3 player to their TV.

Content Collaboration – Is content still king? The argument for remains as strong as ever. Content providers are shaping a large part of the Smart TV experience by allowing/disallowing their content on certain platforms, creating alliances and partnerships, and expanding on traditional subscription models. With platforms like Ubuntu and Android making Smart TV appearances, the content providers are becoming anyone that produces content for any screen, anywhere.

The exact app porting process.

But of course, us being some pretty app-savvy folks, there is plenty going on that showed how the app economy is growing into new spaces. We’ve mentioned our work with Myriad and Alien Vue recently, and it exemplifies how apps are being a major factor in the development of Smart TVs. When it comes to what’s possible with your TV, apps are helping to push the envelope on new experiences and possibilities. Developers the world around are taking note and are beginning to optimize for the big screen.

With each new Smart TV platform unveiled, a new app store was demonstrated alongside it as a byproduct of app availability. But as we already know: big app stores are not the solution to the discovery problem, and as more and more flood in, the problem compounds. How will the creators of great TV-specific apps reach their new audience? Stay tuned for some tips on how businesses can succeed in the coming Smart TV war.

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