Does the TV need to be smart?

The TV is a hot potato these days. Lots of companies release set-top boxes or integrated solutions, competition is murder. Yet most of the designs seem to be very similar and the question is if anyone really loves what they see.

Google retired their “Google TV” effort and replaced it last year with “Android TV”. Apple released their latest iteration of “Apple TV” last fall. The reception yet again seem to be quite mediocre. Judging by this, the “Smart TV” is still a concept waiting to happen, despite what the manufacturers will have us believe in their ads.

Every maker out there comes up with the same solution. There are some content aggregators and a very heavy focus on apps. Why haven't this been successful?

Perhaps for some of these reasons:

The remote

Is this idea from the 80’s still valid? Do we really need a remote at all? Navigating by “transmitting signals”, does that belong in the 2000’s? When we use other (more successful) modern digital products, such as a phone or tablet, the interaction is immediate and direct. We actually touch the thing we are trying to navigate. With PC’s and laptops we do the same thing, even though the input (being the keyboard) is a few inches below the actual output (yes, that’s the screen). The TV on the other hand is many feet away. The input device (remote) is not physically connected to the screen which means a few things.

  1. It is hard to find, as the use perimeter is the large area between your couch and the wall, it can be anywhere! (if you never been looking for your remote, you're a liar). Not so with a phone, tablet or pc.
  2. It feels slow. Even though the communication is rapidly fast, your perception is key. As you are navigating something away from your direct personal sphere, it takes time for your brain to process the doubt that the extra layer of space between couch and wall brings. Also, the soul eating experience of text/voice input via remote?!
The GUI and the apps

Does the TV need a graphic user interface? Isn’t its job just to provide you with some motion pictures that is cinema and series? I’m sure some people use apps on their tv, but I can not figure out why. If you're savvy enough to have bought and use a modern tv solution (notice I stopped calling it “smart”), you are surely aware that you can also use your phone or tablet to find the programming you are interested in and simply projecting it (via AirPlay, Google cast) to the big screen, instead of fumbling around with your inferior remote (if you can manage to find it).

So if we remove the remote and the GUI and the apps what do we end up with?

Well, basically Chromecast.

It's a fantastic, simple and cheap little device that everybody loves. It is not however something you would call particularly smart. It just lets you stream your shows to your TV rather than to show on the phone you are holding in your hand.

The Chromecast is the best solution on the market, but I still feel that there's room for new innovation.

So far, no manufacturers have actually developed a solution that is an actual TV. Plenty of set-top boxes exist of course. Isn’t that a bit weird? There's plenty of room for improvement.

For example:

1. Boot time

Why is the boot time on a regular TVs still so remarkably slow. Why aren't we complaining about this more? Is it because TVs have been around for so long and were just so used to it? It should be instant-on by now.

2. Response time

Why is it OK for it to take multiple seconds just to change a channel?

3. Numeric pattern

Why do we still have numbers that indicate what channel we are watching or changing to? Surly a relic dating back to the beginning of TV remotes.

4. Everything built-in

Tv-reciever, dvr etc. Make the need for more boxes obsolete.

5. Remoteless & GUI-less

Perhaps remoteless is to much of a challenge, but I would like to see a big player try. Power, volume and channel switching being the inputs allowed (no source-selection needed!), but make sure its primarily driven via your phone/tablet.

Perhaps there also is a place for non-streaming apps on the platform, what about a face recognition app to directly identify an actor in any given film. Or a rolling tweet-strip of your choosing on top of any kind of streaming or broadcast content. Or some indenpendent stats app? Or maybe a picture-in-picture for live third party commentators? These are not the kind of apps promoted in today's solutions. Just content aggregation or some home-shopping BS.

A final thought to wrap up. Why does it seem to be so hard for the makers of modern tv solutions to acknowledge the fact that broadcast tv is still a thing. In no (zero!) of the keynotes annoncing smart tv boxes lately do they even mention old school broadcast tv. Instead it’s apps, apps, apps. Broadcast may be old and loosing ground, but it will still be around for quite a while longer.

I'm ready for the future when you are dear manufacturers.

Is this really a proper situation for the 21st century?