I'm Not Convinced by Web TV

22 Jan, 2012 | ComputersEntertainmentWebTdp

The big thing from CES seems to have been web-enabled TVs, again.  We seem to have been talking about them for some time, but they have yet to materialise in homes as far as I can see.

Watching this report from the BBC I didn't see anything that would drive me out to buy a connected TV.

Now, I have a media centre PC, I've had one for years, so you could argue I already have a connected TV, I have access to the internet and online content.  I rarely use it for that though.  Why?  Well, because when I'm watching a program, I'm watching a program.  I don't want to hide it while I look something up, I'd do that on a separate device (a tablet or laptop).  Which is what Scoble says in the report.  The negative point is it means looking away from a programme.

A good show holds my attention, I'll only look something up afterwards, or if there's a particularly contentious discussion with the family, we may pause TV to do it.  Anyone who thinks watching TV is passive and the programmes wash over you is wrong.  Generally, the narrative flow wins.  That's another reason all these things hooking in to TV don't really work.  The best services may add to the your TV's functions (e.g. CCTV for the front door, so you can check who's at the door with a quick switch), not change the way we currently watch TV.

Social is something the TV manufacturers seem to think will be big, for example, getting recommendations from your friends.  What they fail to remember is the TV-owning generation don't really do social, not like the younger generations, and they don't watch TV on a TV, they watch it on a computer.  Besides, most recommendations come via word of mouth, so making programmes available anywhere, anytime is far more important, so when I get that recommendation a month after it was broadcast, I can still find it (without needing to go pirate).

I wonder if we'll start to see the likes of Sky, who've previously used satellite, or other companies who use cable, offering their services to subscribers over the net instead, it would massively open their marketplace, especially if they sell packages on their own (I'd sign up for Sky Sports for football, but I'm not bothered about anything else, so I don't have a subscription, I think they'd find a lot more like me, so what they'd lose in higher subs, they'd make up in numbers).

Side note, I agree with Cringely, no one is going to subscribe to multiple services, it's part of what's stopping me signing up with someone like Lovefilm or Netflix.  Hollywood, if you want to stop piracy, do deals with all these companies for all your content, I want to sign up to one service and get access to anything and everything, otherwise I won't sign up and they'll never kick off.  Make your content available anywhere, at a reasonable price, and there's no reason to pirate, just ask Fred Wilson.

Back to business, some of the other functions (webcams for Skype, YouTube, etc) are better (or at least as well) serviced by allowing people to link their laptop/tablet/phone to the TV instead.  So boxes to allow wireless link-ups are a far better option (and probably why Apple has so far stuck with the Apple TV, rather than an actual TV).  They offer far more flexibility, can be upgraded more often and are much cheaper.

That's before we consider how often people replace their TVs, the average is seven or eight years, how fast does tech change in that time?  (People have upgraded quicker lately, but I'd equate the move to HD with the move to DVD, Blu-ray adoption has not been nearly so quick and the same with 3D and Web TV.)  If services are built into your TV you'll find you don't have a cool new feature or service, or it'll stop being supported.  Will people really go out and buy a new one just for it?  No, which is why separate boxes are a better idea.

I tend to agree with the comments from the editor of Engaget in the BBC report, Web TV won't be this year, or next.  With so many TVs only recently upgraded to HD, I think it'll be more like five years before we see any significant adoption, if ever.