With CES 2014 slated to start on Monday, TV manufacturers are moving into top gear with UltraHD, curved screens and very, very big displays. What can we expect from smart TVs at this year’s show? Incremental improvements in features, and further fragmentation of the platforms.
Much has happened in the connected TV market since CES in 2013. Standout market moves include Chromecast, new Game Consoles and the increasing penetration of connected Blu-ray players. However, none of these compares to the rise of mobile devices in the video ecosystem. How are these likely to affect what we see at CES 2014, and the rest of the year? Here are some of things I’m expecting to see.
Incremental improvements in features
More powerful processors, larger memory and better graphics in the 2014 TVs should open the door to improvements in smart TV features. Samsung has already announced several improvements in convenience features for its customers. Voice control should get more accurate as the company is “focusing on the most frequently-used functions and taking into consideration user’s usage patterns.” A user will be able to change channel by simply saying the channel number, for example. The company is also introducing finger gesture control to change channel, adjust volume and for search and discovery. Expect similar feature improvements from other major vendors like LG and Panasonic.
Fragmentation of the smart TV platforms gets worse
There will be the usual incompatibilities between TV set model year app platforms. In addition, rumors are swirling that LG will release a new smart TV operating system based on the webOS platform it purchased from HP last year. This will likely be incompatible with previous LG smart TV apps. That’s not to say the move to webOS isn’t a good one. Since webOS was built from the ground up for mobile devices, LGs adoption of it for TV could have some interesting implications for TV/mobile integration.
No more Google TVs.
Chromecast killed it. I noted Fry’s Electronics had big sales on the few remaining Google TV powered smart TVs in holiday season 2013. These will be the last we shall see of the failed TV operating system.
More TVs supporting ACR.
One of the most glaring deficiencies of smart TVs is the inability to tell what channel or show a viewer is currently watching. This makes it very difficult to extend a shows experience onto devices and to leverage the Internet to enhance what is seen on the screen. This will change in 2014. TVs will increasing come with this ability built in. Watch for announcements in this space during CES and beyond from leaders in this space including Cognitive Networks, Watchwith and Civolution.
Smaller TV manufacturers fall further behind
Keeping up with the big boys just keeps getting harder for smaller manufacturers. Any company below the top five simply can’t match the features and content breadth of vendors like Samsung and LG. Will this be the year some of them do what I have recommended many times: partner with someone like Roku, for instant scale?
Lots of mobile integration.
Chromecast really seemed to resonate with customers in 2013. Part of the appeal certainly was the price, but another big part was the reliance on mobile devices for search and control. This very much reflects to trends in the consumer market as more and more of us watch TV with our connective devices in tow. Watch for smart TV OEMs to make lots of mobile announcements.
I will be meeting with each of the mainstream TV manufacturers at CES next week as I am leading the CEA Connected TV Red Carpet Tour at the show on Wednesday. Watch the nScreenMedia website and twitter feed for updates on all of the topics covered here, and any new surprises the manufacturers may have up their sleeves.
Why it matters
Smart TVs have lost market momentum to other devices, like Chromecast and Roku.
2014 will see them try to regain momentum with new features, and even new OS platforms.
Competing with sub-$50 devices will be tough as content and apps continue to appear on the much cheaper Internet STBs.