Connected television was writ large at CES 2014. CE vendors had new interfaces, new features and new approaches on display in their booths. I identified three major themes illustrating how the art of getting content on to TV screens continues its rapid evolution.
New smart TV interfaces
I have already written about the launch of Roku TV. I had a chance to see the interface on TCL’s booth and was impressed with its performance. Interestingly, when the TV is turned it goes to the home menu (not fullscreen TV) with the last channel picture-in-picture in the top right corner.
LG had the new WebOS TVs on full display. The full-screen home portal screen has vanished, replaced by a trim and sleek ribbon at the bottom of the screen the company calls the launch bar. I saw the interface as I led a tour of connected TVs: all the tour participants were very impressed with the interface. Missing from the LG booth was the company’s previous smart TV interface, Google TV, and any mention of LG’s smart TV Alliance app platform. It looks very much as though LG has decided WebOS is its smart TV interface of the future.
The bad news is, of course, the number of smart TV platforms in the market continues to multiple. For content providers and app developers the smart TV nightmare continues.
Helping people sort through all of the content available to them was a big theme at this year’s CES. Samsung has created a new page in the smart TV interface called On TV. The company has integrated Twitter data into the On TV recommendations, using tweets to figure out which shows are hot right now. One interesting addition to this functionality is program demographic information, letting users know if a show is more appropriate for a teen or adult, for example. Samsung will also keep tabs on a user’s show watching. Over time this information will help favorite programs automatically percolate up to the On TV page.
Yahoo! also continues to evolve its smart TV interface, primarily used in Vizio TVs. The company is also using user preference and habits to help customers more easily find the content they love. As well, the company has taken the excellent Screen iPad app functionality and integrated in to the smart TV platform.
DVR to the max
Dish is focused on taking its very successful Hopper/Joey whole home DVR solution and amping it up to the max. The company introduced 3 new versions of the Joey, the little STB that extends DVR functionality to every TV in the house.
The Super Joey has 2 tuners built in that can be used by the Hopper to record up to 8 shows at once. The Joey Wireless is Dish’s answer to AT&T’s wireless set-top box. Joey Wireless establish a private WIFI network to communicate with the Hopper using the newest, and fastest, 802.11 ac standard. Finally, Joey goes virtual, if you have a newer LG TV, PlayStation 3 or 4. A user can download a Joey app from the relevant app store and enjoy all of the Hopper DVR content through their device of choice. All of the Joey versions will be available in the first half of 2014
TiVo was demonstrating a network DVR. Though the product is only a prototype, it is an extension of the direction the company has been going. Recently the company has helped users go mobile with their DVR content adding in and out of home streaming. No word when the company might release network DVR as a full product.