We are about to make our annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas on our clients’ behalf, so we thought we would create a shopping list of the things we are hoping to see and the announcements we expect. We would love to hear your views:
Smart TVs – In 2013, these really have to start living up to their ‘smart’ billing. A number of companies (including us) started to get under the skin of Smart TVs in 2012 and realised that they weren’t that smart (see our blog – here). The main issue was the poor quality of their operating systems. No one believes that Smart TVs will be running a proprietary OS in five years, so we need to see some light at the end of the OS tunnel. LG are showing their Google (ie Android for TV) sets, but will the rest follow? More interestingly, will Microsoft announce a Smart TV OS based on Windows 8 for third party OEMs? This could see the Xbox look and feel arrive on a TV screen. Samsung make laptops with Windows8 so why not TVs?
We are also intrigued to see if any of the TV manufacturers can deliver a ‘holistic’ approach to their TV OS (whichever one they use), that recognises that broadcast TV exists. On every device to date, it has looked as though separate teams have worked on the EPG software and the app store software. These two functions need to be integrated, as they increasingly are on new STBs. Even better would be the arrival of a backwards EPG linked to player apps and a credible PVR strategy. Unless they do that, then they are only really creating clever monitors, not 21st century TVs. (Note: those of you who read our blog on set top boxes here will know that we think that cloud PVRs are a generation away from being viable, and that we are still big fans of PVRs).
3D – I think that this Xmas was a bit of a watershed for 3D – in Sky homes at least. With the Queen’s Speech and David Attenborough’s ‘Galapagos’, there was the beginnings of mainstream use. However, for this to continue, we need to get rid of ‘active 3D’ – its expensive and unworkable for the consumer. I am looking for the whole industry to have swung behind ‘passive 3D’. Its a generally better TV experience, and it means that the same glasses, apart from being cheap, are usable in the pub, cinema and in other people’s houses. This means that the glasses manufacturers are finally taking an interest – I may even invest in a pair of Oakley 3Ds specs as a personal reward for having to endure the Nevada heat on all your behalf.
4K – Decipher’s opinion on this is that 4K will only matter in the UK when football is available in the format. That means that nothing will happen in the UK until the company that owns all the cameras in the Premiership grounds (and that would be Sky) decides to upgrade them. They will also have to launch a suitable STB that supports 4K. While Sky have been trialling 4K at the Emirates ground, its only part of their normal experimentation so far, with no decision on whether it will happen. Till then, 4k is a (really interesting) side show.
Games Platforms – It might be a bit early for breakthroughs here. There are rumours that Microsoft are going to announce the Xbox720 at E3 in LA in June, but it would seem a strange event to announce TV capabilities. A few titbits announced at CES would be nice. There has been talk about an Xbox media streamer to rival AppleTV. This would create an interesting three-way TV strategy for Microsoft and Xbox – an OS for third party OEMs, and two devices. We would also like to see some clarity about the future of Microsoft’s MediaRoom set top box OS. How does that fit in? Does anyone care?
Sony PS3 is the games platform that promised so much then fizzled away. We would like to see Sony talk an integrated strategy for once. We no longer understand the difference between Playstation Store and SEN; we don’t know why our Sony Connected TV doesn’t talk to our PS3; and we are not sure of the point of the Sony Tablet? We are looking for any announcement that indicates that Sony are back in the game.
TV Platforms – Competition and co-operation between TV platforms and device manufacturers is going to be an interesting theme this year. At last year’s show, Comcast and AT&T cable demonstrated Smart TV apps that heralded a new type of connected multi-room strategy. We are looking to see how these have progressed, and whether TV platforms can fully capture the value of a connected home.
In the UK over the past year, the Sky and Virgin apps launched on tablets, with access to on-demand and (on Virgin at least) the ability to stream a small number of channels around the home. We want to see the next leap forward here, with PVRs becoming the media server at the centre of a network of devices in my home. I want to stream live channels and on-demand, and access my PVR from anywhere and any device in the house.
Connected Homes – I hope to God we don’t go down the road of ‘Smart Curtains’ and ‘Internet Fridges’ again – the connected home revolution has to start with media, not white goods. Do these software engineers not live real lives? I have a Sky+ box connected to the Internet in my lounge that I can’t access from the Smart TV in my bedroom. Please solve that before wiring up my kettle?
Let us know your thoughts!
Nigel on Twitter: @nwalley
Decipher on Twitter: @DecipherOffAir