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Next Samsung Line Aims To Make Smart TVs Much Smarter
The narrative around connected TV features the last few months have been focused more on the developments of gaming consoles, Google and Apple than on the manufacturers whose core business has been making television. Granted, the existing usage of Microsoft’s XBox Live entertainment hub — particularly when one considers the Kinect system’s revolutionary voice and motion controls — makes for a great story. Plus, anything Google and Apple do naturally force everyone in the tech space to drop whatever they’re doing.
At the same time, while the electronics companies are selling more and more connected TVs, it’s not at all clear that users are than engaged with the features of these sets, except, perhaps, for using it to watch Netflix streams.
Samsung, which has done a number of smart things when it comes to making and marketing its line of so-called smart TVs, made a very strong bid to get tech industry observers excited about a company whose business largely depends on building and distributing TVs, as opposed to developing a new business like Google and Apple.
This past week, the South Korean company unveiled its fifth generation smart TV. Read the release. Although the improvements designed to ???redefine the TV??? don’t quite reflect the hyperbole of the press release, the changes are meaningful and could spur users to give their connected TV apps a bit more thought. As that happens, the advertising deals that Samung has signed with the video ad network businesses run by YuMe and Rovi could also see more traction.
And guess what, the new Samsungs will now have voice and motion controls — take that Kinect! — it also has a ???smart touch remote,??? which will make not only channel surfing easier and faster, but users will also be able to toggle between apps more quickly. On top of that, the company will start selling a Smart Wireless Keyboard separately from its TV and tablet devices. A standard-sized keyboard with touchpad, this device promises to turn the the TV into a wide-screen computer more completely than anything else. The keyboard is Bluetooth-powered to connect to the TV and Samsung’s Android Galaxy Tab or other mobile devices. In other words, the promise of cross platform advertising just got a lot more seamless, at least for those media buyers who are in favor of using Android’s platform.
For those who may be leery of Google’s increasing movement into the TV space — whether its through Google TV Ads (which is more about online video than set-top boxes), the Google TV itself or the search giant’s coming test of a pay TV service in Kansas City — the hope is that all these advancements will be followed and (possibly) improved upon by the other TV makers.
In addition to having smarter smart TVs, these sets will also be a lot more social. For example, the ???Family Story??? app that comes with the new sets allows consumers to chronicle and share their lives with up to 20 family members in a private network. The opening up of greater social networking functions also leave the door open for targeted advertising, although that is delicate ground to tread on, especially when you’re dealing with families. But smart advertisers should be able to navigate those areas fairly easily at this point.
Still, despite all these bells and whistles, if Samsung’s digital content is viewed as lackluster or uninteresting, it could actually set back efforts to turn the TV into another connected, digital device. So before the industry throws the confetti, the company will have to show that it can meet the bar set by Apple’s App Store. Given the excitement generated by the announcement of the newest version of the iPad, the old TV has a lot new screen competition to deal with.
Apple Still Hasn’t Cracked The TV Code
Pre-orders for Apple’s newest version of the iPad have already sold out, less than a week after being unveiled, USA Today reports. Still for TV industry observers, there was some disappointment (or sighs of relief, depending on which area of the business you’re in) that the company only added some slight improvements to its existing Apple TV over-the-top device, such as the ability to stream shows and films at a 1080 aspect ratio versus the 720p on the first generation Apple TV box.
In other words, there was no actual connected television set from Apple, at least not yet. PCWorld’s Jared Newman has a good overview of why Apple has had difficulty in adding streaming video to its stable of shows and movies, as opposed to individual download sales and rentals. Citing an earlier NY Post item, Newman writes, ???The problem is that Apple reportedly wants to call the shots on what content is available and how much it costs, and content providers, who are clinging to the lucrative status quo of cable and satellite TV, don’t want to play along.???
So what else is new? Isn’t this what Apple essentially did with the music industry? Well, that’s exactly the point and that’s why TV studios and networks are digging in their heels. Unlike the music business, TV is still doing very well. Even the networks who aren’t so hot, they’re hardly on their backs and therefore, unlikely to accede to Apple’s strict terms.
Still, Apple does have certain advantages when dealing with the networks. For one thing, the networks have been just as stingy in giving up their content to Google TV, which is generally regarded as an even bigger threat, since Google is so dominant in online advertising, one area where Apple is practically a non-player except for its mobile ad network business, which is no where near being hegemonic. Apple has been hoping to position itself as a countervailing force to Google. So far, it’s still early innings, so the networks haven’t felt a need to move on that. But the digital TV space is evolving at much more rapid rate. And later this year, Apple could very well make good on Steve Jobs’ cryptic talk of ???cracking the code??? on interactive TV. But for now, it’s just wait and see.