If you believe some future gazers, the Internet as we know it is over. They say ‘The future will be Appified!’. Korean’s electronics giant Samsung agree and have aped the app route for their new televisions and Bluray players.
They are calling this skewed tech future 'Smart TV', but how smart will it be?
Samsung’s televisions and Bluray players all now have a dual personality, they will act normally as a viewing product but also allow you to go online but not in a traditional way as in no browser.
You now have access to Smart TV Apps. These follow the traditional idea of Apps, nuggets of finite purpose that allow you windows in to the online world. Already companies like Google Maps, Twitter and Facebook have their Apps waiting for you, and there are plenty more waiting and in development.
But are these Apps as smart as you'd want them to be?
We're right at the start of App building for Smart TVs so perhaps we shouldn't expect too much. The beginning of Apple Apps for 'i' devices for instance was tentative and threw up their fair share of strange offerings too (iFart anyone!). But the iPhone/iPad have one big advantage over Smart TV, they are smarter. You have natural gesture makers available to you 24/7, as in your hands. With Smart TV you are back to the remote and it feels like a relic. With tablets and mobiles you also have a concentrated amount of resolution right in front of your eyes. TV viewing/App viewing happens at a distance so any future App has to allow for that.
Having said that Samsung knows that there are more people without iPhones and iPads as there are with. Many of those of people want to have an online route while they are watching their usual television fayre.
So you have a huge market but the success of failure of such a technology historically is in the user interface – has Samsung done enough to make this a pleasurable experience – yes and no.
Say you are bored with tonight’s programmes, easily done you might say. You can access Smart TV via your television’s input choices as you would if you wanted to watch a DVD. With our Samsung BD-C6900 you access via an HDMI input and are presented with a menu including Internet@TV. After setting up your Internet connection you can access the Apps.
What can you expect when you get there? As mentioned before obvious Apps like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are already there. Lovefilm are there with a placeholder saying they’ll be there very soon. Google Maps have an App as do USA Today with a brief news and picture feed.
At this stage all this reminds me of the Apps that appeared for the Wii. Mostly very big companies joining as part of their land-grab method of marketing, always a good idea. But consumers are much more canny than that and will only use options like this if it’s an easy journey. Smart TV is easy to navigate but there’s not much there, something Samsung are trying to change. They have been quick to release a SDK for App developers and announced a corresponding competition for the best Apps with a hefty EUR500,000 prize.
App developers will be tempted with that money but will be restricted in what they can develop. The existing game apps are dire and there’s nothing really compelling anywhere else. How can developers provide winning Apps for remote wielding couch potatoes with yet another remote as the only interface, we will see. But never underestimate the draw of half a million Euro to kick start a culture!