Smart TVs: Not Such A Smart Idea

from the Temporal-Pre-crime dept

A Smart TV is a TV that includes at least a rudimentary OS, access to web and Internet functions, and streaming content. They have been a hot product category at the last two CES shows, and the rumor that Apple is about to launch one is adding fuel to the fire. The Apple rumor is somewhat reliable, since it is partly based on a quote from the Steve Jobs biography where Jobs says of the Smart TV: “I finally cracked it.”

But having looked closely at the offerings at CES, and comparing them to the mobile phone industry, I don’t believe that the entire concept of putting extensive intelligence into the TV is a wise one. The reason is mostly because of the temporal mismatch between the lifetime of a TV, and the lifetime of a mobile device, mobile OS, or mobile processor. You see, people want large screen TVs, and these are expensive investments. The main screen in most American homes runs around $1,100. And those screens are designed to have a half-life of around 60,000 hours of viewing. Now, it’s not clear how long the average consumer will keep a 1080p TV bought in 2012, but I’d suppose that 10 years is not a ridiculous guess, so humor me and work with 10 years.

So if there is one component of the Smart TV that costs $1,100 and lasts most people about 10 years, does it make sense to mate it to the “smart” part? The cost of the “smartness” is fairly easy to estimate: A Roku box, Google TV box, or Apple TV box run around $70-$100, a Boxee box goes for around $200. So, the “smart” factor runs between $70 and $200 street price. But what is the life-cycle of the average “smart” device? For that, I look to the phone market, where people cycle their smartphones every two years. Apple fans line up at the store to replace their one or two year old 3GS for a 4G because of added features and function. On Android and iOS alike, the latest OS versions, features and apps only work on the latest hardware. Does anyone here have an old phone or smartphone sitting in a drawer? Yes? Do you want to do the same with your $1,100 TV investment? It’s a given that a TV is not a smartphone, but for now we’re asking them to do similar tasks: apps, streaming media, social updates, etc. The Internet performance of the TVs will become out of date like smartphones do. Tying relatively cheap, 2-3 year life-cycle smarts to an expensive 10 year product just doesn’t make sense.

It seems the obvious solution is already here: keep the TV dumb, and provide a set-top box (STB) that has the smarts. The STB can thus be replaced cheaply, once out of date. Consumers can easily have more than one STB, not committing to any one company’s ecosystem. Do people really want to buy their TV’s by ecosystem? “Hey, I love this Sony’s picture, price, and size…but I want an iCloud, so I’ll buy this smaller TV instead.”

Really, the Smart TV is just a sales vehicle dreamt up and promoted by the TV OEMs. They had a bang-up decade updating everyone to flat panels, then pushing the upgrade to 1080P. They’ve had less success with 3D, and are looking for the hook to make another upgrade worthwhile. For now, Smart is it. But I doubt customers are eager to jump on, given they can just buy a STB. Even those actively looking for a TV may resist if there is a price premium, given most Blu-ray players and many cable or telco STBs already provide smart features. The TV OEMs are going to have to bundle in the smarts for free, and hope that they can make money back on the content ecosystem. But will they enjoy ecosystem lock-in for 10 years, or less?

So far, the Smart TVs sold to market are too new to have suffered from the life-cycle mismatch. The earliest Smart TVs can still compete on level ground with the latest, since it’s only been a year or so since they’ve been in shops. But it won’t be long until we start hearing complaints from those customers that “I can’t stream that resolution.” or “Why can’t I watch programs with that new MP4 codec?” or “That app doesn’t work for me. Why can’t I get the latest OS on my TV?” Some of those people will end up with a newer STB, and just obviate the smarts that had been built into their TV, much the same way most of us don’t use the TV tuner that is bundled with our sets.

Ultimately, whatever the problem that Steve Jobs “cracked”, or whatever smarts are provided by Sony, Google, LG, Samsung, etc. I think those smarts will be better placed in a STB (or tablet, or other smart device) than in a TV.

Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Smart TVs: Not Such A Smart Idea”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

The problem with computers is that the go obsolete rather fast. So if you have a smart computer, you gonna have computer functions to some degree in them. If built into the tv, there is no means to upgrade.

Computers have over the years tended to go by leaps and bounds. Each leap, all the OEMs get on board with, everything changes, and to ensure you are able to use the latest hardware, they are usually keyed to the latest/greatest.

I’m not going to buy a tv, much less do I want a smart one. We’ve already enough problems with the government wanting to use geo-location, spying in through the speaker, and underlaying software doing intense spying. Any bets you wanna make that it doesn’t hit the factory floor without ‘special additions’ or ‘special upgrades’ are required for sales marketability?

Or how long till ransomware hits your smart tv where you have to pay someone off on the internet to get viewing time back?

Anonymous Coward says:

The article presupposes...

I bought my current TV in 2003 – it’s a rear-projection model. I have a set top box – MythTV, and my next TV will probably be “Smart” (depending on if I like the interface.)

This article implies that the TVs won’t be upgradable – which is kind of silly.. the TVs are network-enabled, and play content off the internet – so why wouldn’t they be upgradable the same way? OS upgrades to take advantage of new codecs or services makes most of the “problems” mentioned above non-issues.

Hardware upgrade? Why do you need it in an appliance? The screen it’s driving is a fixed size, so it’s by definition powerful enough.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Mindset Mismatch

TV sets originated as passive-consumption devices, with user interaction limited to changing the channel (or turning the set off). ?Smart? TVs are trying to turn them into two-way interactive devices.

On the other hand, our interactive Internet-connected devices have always had passive consumption available as at least one usage mode (e.g. go to YouTube, select a video and watch). With the added advantage that they come in a whole range of form factors, from desktop PCs down to small handheld mobile phones. And that finding things on YouTube by keyword beats trying to enter channel numbers, whether from an on-screen EPG or a paper TV program guide.

I think it is more likely that interactive devices will render the TV obsolete, than that the TV will become an interactive device.

Cody Jackson (profile) says:

The article presupposes...

Just because they are network-enabled doesn’t mean the manufacturer is smart enough to make it upgradable. Nor would they necessarily want to; making people upgrade their TV for the latest and greatest features is their business model.

Even if they are upgradable, how long will that support last before they say you have to buy a new TV because the software won’t work on the “old tech”?

Benjo (profile) says:

The article presupposes...

I agree to some extent. You don’t need an incredible smart device to drive a high def tv. I currently own a “smart” 32 inch VIZIO, but the biggest problem is the services that the firmware has included with it (and to some extent the UI). I have a feeling those services are going to be rather locked up. A tablet or a smartphone has all the hardware needed to act as a ROKU like device for your tv, with the added benefit of actually having people develop applications for it (a more open platform).

I think the key is making the developing platform relatively open and convenient for 3rd party developers. The additional hardware required to make TVs “smart” is so cheap relative to the cost of the TV that they might as well add value.

Rekrul says:


The problem with computers is that the go obsolete rather fast. So if you have a smart computer, you gonna have computer functions to some degree in them. If built into the tv, there is no means to upgrade.

Actually, it’s usually the OS that makes the computer obsolete. To run the latest software, you need the latest version of Windows, which probably has double the system requirements of the previous version.

Most people don’t actually need today’s state of the art systems. All most people ever use a computer for is email, instant messaging/Skype, YouTube/Hulu and playing online flash games. For that, a good P4 system would suffice perfectly. They rarely install commercial programs, unless it something they’ve bought from the jewel-case, bargain rack at Walmart. The number one reason for buying a new computer today is because the old one is “too slow” after installing 5 different instant messaging programs, 15 toolbars, and 4 different spyware programs.

Computers have over the years tended to go by leaps and bounds. Each leap, all the OEMs get on board with, everything changes, and to ensure you are able to use the latest hardware, they are usually keyed to the latest/greatest.

You forgot to mention that each leap & bound obsoletes half the existing games on the market by making them incompatible with current hardware, drivers or the OS, such that the only way to get them to run is to install a virtual machine with an older version of Windows and hope that does the trick.

There are entire forums dedicated to helping people try and get older games running on new systems. Half the game videos on YouTube have comments like “How did you get this to work? It won’t even install for me on Windows 7!”

CheMonro (profile) says:

TVs are cheap and getting cheaper. I see old “dumb” CRT TVs on the side of the road all the time – nobody wants them. You can buy a new big screen TV for less than $500, much less. For me the key is USB and HDMI interfaces. With these I can connect a hard drive and a laptop. The harddrive stores the media and the laptop provides the smarts to do any general purpose computation. I can access the hard drive directly from the TV for simple avi files, or through the laptop if it’s more complex. And I can pick up the laptop and the hard drive and take them on the road and plug them into any HDMI tv. A laptop with HDMI is the best place for the smarts to reside, and yeah, you might upgrade it every 2-5 years.

teka (profile) says:

The article presupposes...

So Sony could spend time and money on making a new patch for the TV-system they sold you 4 years ago.. Or they could abandon software and hardware upgrade support and laugh all the way to the bank.

When one of those 5 Streaming Content Sources embedded in the UI goes bankrupt and the lack of connection and content causes the UI to hang in a waiting loop every time you try to down-arrow past it, will Samsung rush to fix this for you? What about 3 years from now? 5?

And when you buy your new 802.11xr7q router and find out that the wifi modem embedded in the set is too antique to be compatible (lots of change happens in just a few years) or cannot support the security encryption in all of your modern devices?

Dang, too bad.

Anyhow, the shortish version is simply this: Cramming too much “smart” inside such a high-prices device without any way to ensure it’s long-term life is silly.

Make a TV that has a great picture and well-designed inputs, Then make a powerful smart input device. It will be easy to sell the customer a smarter, better input device in a year or two, and then another. and another.

Calvin (profile) says:

The solution has already been available for a number of years

I have been running a couple of solutions for a number of years.
Under my flat panel TV I have a small form factor Linux box connected via an HDMI channel to the TV. If I want to watch TV I use the handset to switch channels and if I want to use the computer I switch inputs and use the wireless keyboard/mouse. The computer is connected via ethernet cable to my server and router so I can watch films using XBMC or browse the internet.
On my desktop in the study, with it’s nice big flat panel screen and high spec graphics card, I’ve got a USB TV card and I simply run Kaffeine to watch TV in a window while I’m surfing.
I’m not sure what the ‘Interactive TV’ is supposed to be bringing to the party that isn’t something that’s already been available for a number of years.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is a certain segment of the market that is always going to aim for the biggest and best or home theater enviroment. I don’t think that’s the middle ground. I doubt if most people spend $1k+ on a latest tv just as “most” people don’t stand in line for an iphone. That’s just what grabs the headlines and tops the wish list.

I drug my feet upgrading to an HD tv – 32″ (I could afford more) and it was a horrible experience. I remember when spending money used to be fun. I had to get into the pdf owners manual to figure out what the tv would or wouldn’t do. Then I was going to get a blu-ray player and ran into the same %$#& thing. Then I needed a set top box on top of all that. WTF? 3-4 or 5 boxes on top of the tv?

I hate the black hole in the living room anyway. Add a crap load more wires and junk. and it’s a living mess of a nightmare – much less trying to figure out what does what and works with what and hooking it all up … FORGET IT. I almost just bought a PSP3 just because IT WORKS and does what I want. I have no intention of ever playing a game.

My original thought was just to get a computer, then I wouldn’t have to deal with half the crap. No region coding, connects wirelessly and so on.

Just last week I read that the average age of tv viewers has gone to 54 years old. I think that figure includes cable (I’ll have to find the article again). But that has stuck with me.

My 20 year old doesn’t care about tv. I think I’ve watched 2 weekends worth in 6 months and got my fill of House Hunters, Prision, Toddlers, and other garbage because there were 200 +/- channels with nothing on. If there was something on, it was a pain to find.

It’s just too much work to enjoy. I end up spending most my leisure time online – my 20 year old does the same. The few shows I do want to watch, I want to watch them online as well. Most are there; sometimes legal, sometimes not. But I want what I want, how I want it, when I want it.

My point is that buying a tv for watching television has ended. I have a hunch that Apple has figured that out.

That’s what happens when companies get stuck in a tug of war over content for several decades. The public moves on.

Zos (profile) says:

have you seen this?

the problem with the roku sticks is that any TV they’ll work on, is almost certainly already a smart tv. It needs an upgraded usb port to work as i remember. And my kids are hooked on angry birds on the Roku2, the dongle doesn’t do motion control.

I don’t want my TV smart, i want a GIANT, Ultra high def, monitor. with lots of hdmi ports to play with.

I managed to get a 60 inch sharp aquos for 800 black friday and i’m ecstatic. It’s not 3d, it’s not smart, it’s just ginourmous. and it looks great.

Everything else is an upsell for ignorant consumers who don’t understand how to geek it together themselves.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

The article presupposes...

“the TVs are network-enabled, and play content off the internet – so why wouldn’t they be upgradable the same way?”

So is your smartphone…but you can’t do today’s leading apps and games on your 2-year old smartphone. Just ask anyone with a T-Mobile G1.

The problem is the processor, memory, and other hardware. It is bought and paid for at a fixed point in time. Prices drop, Moore’s law moves on, and the later TVs are much more powerful. Your TV OEM doesn’t need to support your TV so much, since you’ve already bought it. They worry about selling the latest customers, so they put better and more features in the latest TVs, and orphan yours.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:


Sure I have. The same could be said for smartphones. But which TV manufacturer increases the cost of their current TVs so that in 3 years they will still have up to date memory and processing power? None. They build them to get sold today.

Android, as you brought up, is a great example. Ask the people with Xperia X10s or Galaxy S (I) what they think of your theory of infinite upgradability. The upgrades are slow to be delivered, and soon never are. These devices will never see Ice Cream Sandwich.

A. Nnoyed (profile) says:

Smart TV a Failure!

I fully agree that smart TV’s are not so smart. Years ago, when consumers purchase their DirectTV and Dish Network Receivers, Sony manufactured a large screen projection TV with built in Direct TV receiver.

In mid 2005 I was looking for a home in Central Florida. I always asked the homeowner the availability of Cable TV and Broadband and how they received pay TV. I noticed that one homeowner had one of those Projection TV’s with a built in Direct TV Receiver and a Direct TV receiver on the top of the set. I asked why the DirectTV receiver on the top of the set. He stated that he used the receiver in the set for a while but the receiver in the set would not work with the new Multi-Satellite DirectTV system, so he had to use an external receiver. Therefore Smart TV not so smart!

Stephen Pate (user link) says:

Smart TV

They are so bad. Our high end Sony has “Smarts” so did the Samsung that we looked at. Primitive menu systems. Hook up a computer when you really need smarts.

Lately Bell has been advertising Facebook on cable. Tried it – you have to hate yourself to use it. Same old telephone keypad. Better used an iPhone/iPad or Android device to control the TV.

Berenerd (profile) says:

Lets think about this...

Sony wants to make sure what you are watching is ok by them and considered by them, legal….they send out an update to the OS and now you can’t view anything without putting in your access codes to prove you are who you are. DRM baby! yeah, they will bring me over to a smart TV when penguins move to hell and Pigs mate with flying monkeys while they come out of my butt…

Brian says:


I mostly agree with Derek, but I can conceive of a scenario where a manufacturer could get around it with a modular “brain” type device.

In the fitness market There are a number of excercise bikes and treadmills that use a separate “iFit Live” module which allows the user to connect to the internet and run gourses via google maps etc.

Apple could just as easily make a device that has an exchangeable part that holds all the smarts. When it goes beyond its last update and the demands of the day exceed its capabilities, just slide it out and pop in the new “2.0” card…

I don’t know if that is the best business model to be successcul, but I’ve been wrong before. I once said that thte only splash the iPad would make would be into the toilet…

Sent from my iPad

Anonymous Coward says:

The article presupposes...

The downfall to your thinking is that you are assuming that the only changes in the next 10 years would be software changes.
Consider adding a remote that contains an accelerometer, gyroscope, or other app-enhancing technology. Assuming that the “Smart” TV only accepts IR input, there is no way that an enhanced remote would work. Hopefully there would be a hardwired way to add the new input technology.
Consider removing the remote entirely and using a Xbox Kinect type device and hand gestures to interact with your TV. Again this requires an additional hardwired device. If this device would normally allow you to wave to turn on the TV, but the device is not powered if the “Smart” TV is off, you’ve already lost features that a new stand alone device could deliver.

James says:

Remember Smart TV = DRM enabled TV

Smart TVs will be dragged down by the fact that when you interface with Hulu/Netflix/etc…(assuming they allow you to, sometimes it’s only Hulu Plus), the UI for those are usually very inferior to a normal computer UI. I’ve been running our 1080p 50inch Plasma for 3 years off of a Win Vista laptop I bought my wife in 2008. With that setup I’ve never had to worry about Flash updates or the dreadfull “Hulu does not recognize your browser.”

Anonamouse says:

I see your point, but somewhat disagree.

To me, the SMART part of a SMART TV is just a value added. It doesn’t stop the TV from being TV when the SMART portion is obsolete. I think of it as buying an integrated STP that will become obsolete in 2-3 years. There’s nothing stopping me from buying a STP at that point and plugging it into an HDMI at that point.

Ed C. says:


We already have that. It’s called a STB. LOL! TV OEMs have absolutely no incentive to make upgradable modules. NONE! Even if they did make them, the TV/module interface itself will eventually become obsolete as bandwidth requirements and feature sets increase.

Sadly, even STBs are not a truly insured upgrade path either. HDMI has been around for awhile now, so you could expect to plug a shiny new STB into 1st generation HDMI TVs. Except, even HDMI has has evolved over the years. Devices such as the Roku stick that require a feature from a later version simply won’t work on older sets.

With 15 years in the PC industry, I can tell you that upgradeablity is a crap shot at best. The move to digital interfaces has allowed advancements that wouldn’t have been possible on older analogue standards, but digital standards have a much shorter lifespan.

Ed C. says:

Not sure I buy this argument

That’s only because many companies are still writing software compatible with XP. New codec, no problem, just find someone who has a version for XP. TVs, and other closed consumer electrics systems, are wholly dependent upon the OEM for updates–when, or even IF, they do so.

Think about it, when even the hardware itself is often only guarantied for 1 year, what incentive does do OEMs have to keep writing updates after 10 years? 5 years? 2 years? None really.

cycle003 says:

benefits for simplicity

I somewhat agree with the article, but it’s from the perspective of a technology buff/nerd and not of an average user. There’s a lot to be said about the benefit of simplicity of use. I’ve been connecting computers to TVs since the 90s, but most people I know don’t want to bother with that. They want to turn on the TV and have it ready to go. My main TV now is a smart TV with built-in Wi-Fi, and just having everything on one device is clearly advantageous from a usability standpoint.

A large percentage of people will be discouraged from using features that require multiple devices.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

The article presupposes...

what he said…
got (prob) the same Vizio set, and the HUGE pita is that it uses its own little crapware to connect, instead of a simple browser that lets US decide where WE want to go, rather than the limited choices they offer…
end up connecting the laptop to it through the HDMI and doing stuff that way rather than their walled, um, ghetto…
the only one we use directly is the Netflix app…
…or, rather *used to*: crap DSL service which is *supposed* to be 3Mbs has been .1 to .15 Mbs since BEFORE xmas…
but -(gomer pyle voice) surprise! surprise! surprise!- it is IMPOSSIBLE to find ANY ALTERNATIVES since all these bastards have ‘non-compete’ agreements and LIE about whether they offer service in your area… (the local cable douches have had maps showing their service goes miles beyond us for more than a decade, and they STILL do not offer service here)
i have *tried* to look at -you know- the competition, but THERE IS NONE I AM *ALLOWED* to access ! ! ! NONE of the satellite services will sell us ISP service -no matter the cost- because they ALL have ‘non-compete’ agreements…
(‘non-compete’ ? ? ? wtf, i thought this was supposed to be ‘free-market capitalism’ or some such baloney…)
after researching florida law on this, turns out basically EVERYTHING that isn’t POTS is essentially unregulated, and the bastards can collude and do whatever the fuck they wnat to in carving up markets and refusing service…
no choice, no voice…
that ain’t the country i want to live in…
art guerrilla
aka ann archy
art guerrilla at windstream dot net

Anonymous Coward says:

We have reached the point in computing power in consumer electronics that they are unlikely to go obsolete directly. Clearly there is enough computing power to run the device, to do the storage, to transmitted the data fast enough to show the picture, etc.

With connectivity, and the ability to upgrade firmware and software, it’s unlikely that the devices will be truly out of date any time soon.

As an example, most current gaming systems (Wii, playstation3, etc) are in the 6 to 7 year old range (design wise closer to 8 to 9). There has not been enough pressure in the market for these devices to be replaced, because they are more than good enough for what they do. Yes, they will eventually be replaced, but the new systems will not longer offer enough of a performance upgrade incentive to merit massive sales.

Basically, we are at the same place as the DVD versus Bluray deal. While a DVD in “hidef” mode may not be perfect, for most people it is more than good enough to do the job. So the takeup on Bluray is very, very slow compared to the takeup on high price product because the increase in cost is not reflected in an increase in performance that people value enough.

Look at desktop computers themselves. Many people still use computers powered by chips that date back 5 to 7 years, and many are running an operating system that dates back a decade or more (windows XP). I still find the occassional sucker running Windows98 on some dedicated task machine in the back of an office somewhere.

At current levels, putting a smart device (specifically a Boxee style thing) into a TV isn’t a bad thing. It’s not the best thing to do, but no better or worse than the TV / DVD combos of the past (and who would have though that it was the TV part that would render them obsolete?)

Keroberos (profile) says:

Smart TVs as a Service

I agree that a smart TV just by itself is somewhat useless, but if they bundle the TVs with a decent steaming service where the cost of the TV is subsidized through a monthly contract–sign up for a three year contract get the base model TV for free, pay a little more upfront or a little higher monthly fee–get a better TV, at the end of your contract get a free upgrade for renewing. I think they could make it work (if the service was good, I could see myself going for it). I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what Steve Jobs meant when he said “I finally cracked it”. There are still a lot of people still using old CRT TVs for various reasons (the big one being cost) I think something like this could get them to upgrade.

Anonymous Coward says:

teleision = 1 big monitor + connected to computer/laptop + hard drive to hold content.

My biggest worry is that major brands are set on making some ports that only stream degraded signal , disabling ports or connections so they only can relay certain content, make it illegal for users to modify or flash hardware to get it to work, push upgrades that eliminate features or remove operatability.

I actually found a blu ray player that delivered HD over component – as long as you didn’t install the upgrade from the manufacturer which disabled that. Years ago, creative labs removed the recording radio feature through an upgrade. Disabling by design is proof that captialism is dead in the US.


Hardward Obsolescence

A clue to the fact that this is really a hardware problem and not a software problem is the current market. The article even touched on this by including examples of appliances at two different price points. Those two price points represent distinct levels of hardware performance and distinct features.

A Roku versus a BoxeeBox is the perfect example of the underlying problem.

STBs exist at various price points because some companies are trying to compete based on price and others based on features. Eventually the $300 box will become a $100 one. At that point,it’s far cheaper to upgrade your STB vs your TV.

A SmartTV is like buying a Roku for 3 times the price and then tying it to your TV.


The article presupposes...

The software is much less of a problem than the lame Roku-style hardware that will likely be embedded in the TV.

Even on the software side you’re just assuming that a hardware manufacturer is going to pay any attention to you once they have your money. There’s really no reason to believe that.

The only way you can really ensure that something will ever be updated is if you can do it yourself. You can also enforce some degree of consistency between multiple brands of TV hardware this way too.

Then there’s price. You can buy a house full of STBs for what you would pay extra for a single SmartTV.


Consumer Hype

> We have reached the point in computing power
> in consumer electronics that they are unlikely
> to go obsolete directly.

No we haven’t.

> Clearly there is enough computing power
> to run the device, to do the storage, to
> transmitted the data fast enough to show
> the picture, etc.

No there isn’t.

The current crop of STBs are ample demonstration of this. They are built to be cheap and that low cost comes with some performance/capability compromises. Google/Logitech tried to introduce a more expensive and more capable device and got creamed in the market.

Markus Hopkins (profile) says:

have you seen this?

This is actually wrong. The roku sticks need a HDMI port. I don’t mean to be rude, but in half the time it took to write your comment, you could have clicked on the link of the previous commenter and found out that the only port on the stick is HDMI (and that’s just from the pictures). Also, the only “upgrade” required is MHL. From the article:

“MHL is a new standard that uses the HDMI connector on TVs to deliver power and other critical elements for the streaming experience. There are already TVs with MHL from Samsung and Toshiba, and you?ll see a bunch more announced at CES.”

Going forward, most TVs will be including this support, Smart TV or no, so while you sort of have a point about the current crop not supporting the stick, you’re absolutely wrong about the need for a Smart TV with an “upgraded usb port,” whatever that even is. And ultimately, this solution really is the best of both worlds. Bundle a new TV with the stick, and now it’s a removable component that can be upgraded in a few years. While you could argue that in the mean time the standard has shifted away from powered HDMI to something else, consider that A/V, power, and a network connection are really the only requirements a set top box (for IP type connections) really needs, so there would be no good reason for roku to stop supporting this type of connection, even if they add others.

This solution really takes care of all of the concerns of the blog post (and has the added bonus of not actually being “set top”), and I expect to see other Set top box manufacturers following roku’s lead in the not too distant future. (profile) says:


Samsung and modular? What system is it?

The earliest Smart TVs can still compete on level ground with the latest

Problem is, that even the latest Smart TVs can’t do a whole lot. The Samsung UE40D8090 e.g. does support MKVs but no subs inside but only external. And not the native BluRay format PGS (SUP) but only text subs in SRT format.

And to access share on your computer you need to install the crappy Allshare software rather than just connect via Samba.

Anonymous Coward says:

Consumer Hype

I love it.

“no we haven’t”

“no there isn’t”.

Do you have anything except these statements to back up your view? You might want to wander over to Wired and look for an article about the “good enough revolution”. We aren’t seeking perfection, we are seeking good enough. Things reach a point where the increased cost to the consumer to get that last x% of improvement is no longer desirable. There is no indication that we are going to see a TV format in the forseeable future that will be so much beyond what the current Boxee style devices can pull off. So including one or more of them in a new TV isn’t exactly creating obsolescent products.

Jayc (user link) says:

STB over Smart TVs?

Two points:
1) Although the current life cycle for TVs may have been 10 years or so like you mentioned, its becoming much shorter. OLED panels are planned to come out within three years, by then there is a good chance LED price will have dropped and it may be that what costs 1000 USD now may have dropped to much lower price.

2) I think there is a lot of potential to have the “Smart” functions with in the TV since manufucatures can closely tune web or native technology to get great performances.

Thanks for the great article. It gave me new perspective.

zeno says:

i recently purchased a non smart tv as my playstion 3 provides apps like youtube and net flix and has a browser. so with the money i saved over a smart tv price i will consider an add on in the future. 2 years from now the add ons could be vastly superior to built ins. still having an app like net flix built in is nice, but so too is having a real web browser . for me its all about having a real and good browser then having a zillion apps. i am using my ps3 for this post.

sandra says:


I and my boy friend as been separated for a long period, I cam across different spell caster and they were all unable to bring my lover back. I was so sad and almost gave up on him when i met a spell man Dr ogogro that helped me get my lover back. Ever since then i have been so happy and couldn’t believe it would happen. He also helped me with success spell, I have been living happily with my lover now and will be getting married soon. Here is his contact if you need his help

simon says:

Spell on Smart TV

I really like the last post in this context. Maybe there’s a spell on the whole industry, that needs to be removed.?

To bring the blog back on track, what I do not appreciate, that even for a single manufacturer, the ‘best suited’ blu ray player for the most expensive smart TV has all the smart features again. Of course for $. And it’s not enough that the blu ray players can also buy apps, the receivers of course need to do that as well.

For the TVs, I’d say smart is kind of a side product. In order to get all that picture quality, SD to HD conversion, 400 Hz and mainly USB support with all kind of containers the more OS/software approach is pretty much given. CI+ also adds quite a bit of CPU needs. Try to implement all those features in FPGAs or custom chips with tools and chip libraries from a few years ago.??

My ideal vision is more like this

– A TV that has a lot of HDMI inputs (or whatever the future holds). The TV shall focus on inter pixel and inter frame calculations and all the dimming that is needed. That is what computer monitor’s do and do well. No 2D to 3D conversion.

– A TV output to a single input channel receiver/amplifier, where the high watt surround speakers can be connected to. Pretty much a plain amplifier. The TV output to work when powered off. Audio requirements change slower than the picture ones. So the amplifier does not need to be upgraded, when a new resolution is around the corner.

– Smart Boxes with a defined form factor, that all connect to the TV, and not to the receiver. Having some size standard like that, would allow for some clever back screen mounting.

– Allow to easily extract Blu-ray to home storage, even if it remains protected

– Get rid of DLNA, a ‘standard’ as basic as one can think of. And manufacturer are even proud to implement and market it. We need something that indexes and searches well across the net.

Since we are in a chicken and egg situation, hardly anybody from the existing players will want to redistribute it’s features first (and hoping the others to join)?without having a big bucket of money to wait for the success. So maybe Apple is the one to have that critical mass and to change the game.

ofer desade says:

i got one - mistake

panasonic’s viera connect has so far been a big disappointment. most of the video apps dont work – they buffer then dont play. the news channels provide mostly clips. fporget streaming from the browser. virtual keyboards are a curse from hell and external ones work slowly. there’s noone manning the customer support … a futile exercise in frustration.

Joyce says:

Samsung Model #: UN40EH6030F with included Bluray

I’m searching for answers on buying a flat screen tv. Found this model on today. Not a smart tv which seems like you are suggesting is a good idea to buy. Comes with bluray player, 2D,3D converter, 2 remotes (that seems like a pain!) & 4 sets of 3 D glasses. What do you think of this? Good deal or not?
$799. Free s & h, 5 payment plan.
Help please!! Thanks.

BrokenEye says:

I don’t see why you’d need so-called “smart” features on your TV. 99% of internet video content isn’t of high enough resolution to look any good on a full-sized television screen, and if you absolutely HAVE to update your Twitbook RIGHT THIS SECOND in the middle of a show (which you don’t), then get off you lazy ass and walk to your goddamn computer. If you can’t miss part of the show for it, it can either wait til you’re done, or doesn’t need to be said.

donker says:

smart phone galaxy nexus hotspot for STP on dumb TV??Is it possible??

I just got rid of my cable and wireless internet for my house. I can now use my smartphone (unlimited data plan)as a hotspot to use the internet on my laptop, to watch nexflex,hbogo etc. I would like to know if and how to tether my laptop to a STB to watch these shows on a bigger flat screen TV or do I need a Smart TV.

Baptiste says:

this article and those commenting...

Smart tv is the next trend as they have no where to go. 3D has been a total flop any one who says otherwise is a fool. Buy a tv for a fair price many smart TVs are only a bit more than their regular tv counterparts. Most of the drivel on the Internet can be found on sites like this where opinions are like assholes. Most of you stand in line on Black Fridays buying alll the old tech. So shadaap and go stand in some line.

Anonymous Coward says:

I just bought a smart TV Samsung UN55ES6150F. And I agree with you. I thought I could also use it for internet stuff. However those apps such as YouTube are so disappointed and primitive comparing the same apps on the computers. If you have used them already, you would not want to go back to the Model T version on the Smart TV. Now I go back to the regular TV for less money.

Erik says:

There is not that much that a smart tv needs to do. All it has to do is to be able to play content from different sources where the sources can be upgraded or added through software updates. For controlling it, I guess my phone with a special app will do.

The upgrade requirements are not the same as those for computers. A smart tv is basically nothing more than a smart display. For instance, I could basically open a youtube video on my phone and stream it to the tv. Or, I could use my phone to instruct the tv to start streaming from a particular source.

Jenny Morris says:

If you can help please contact me

My husband and I have just returned our second Smsrt 55″ TV One was a Samsung and the other a Panasonic we found it so complecated. We live in Parcent Spain and now want to buy a good make basic L.E.D. T.V.
Non Smart 55″ or 60″ S!amsung or Sharp L.E.D. but have drawn a blank so far as the shops here seem to be only buying in the Smart versions when you want the bigger screen.Would really appreciate any advice on this or if any one in Spain knows where we can buy a good one. Thanks in anticipation

lee says:


I bought a Skyworth smart TV embeded Android 4.0 in recent days.I found I can’t install third-party applications on it and I can’t watch live TV.The Apps applied by Apps Store are less and useless.So I’m undertaking buying a LeTV STB to mate the stuff on which I can install 3rd-party Apps and upgrade the OS embeded in it.

Tou says:

Make sense

Ok well this is similar , I bought a 1080 HD TV , it last for 5 years, then suddenly it burn out, well the board (according to support) (the tv turn on , but nothing work ) anyway the point is I paid $400 out of the $800 for it , which mean my tv cost me $80/year .. If I’ve add a ruku box that’s like $20/year a total of $100/year.

Now imagine a smart tv same size as mine would cost $1,500 and hopefully last 5 years
That’s $300/ year if nothing break before the 5 years , and of course warranty should be done by this time too..
Point is investing in a smart tv cost way more if it ever fail . While the little media box is cheaper to replace .

Anonymous Coward says:


They are called Mini-pc’s and media players, which usually run on android or some kind of Linux kernel. They are also made as fast as 1.6Ghz Quad core with 2GDDR3 Ram and 16GB static memory with available SD card slot or USB for additional OS memory. SMART TV’s Can’t do what I can do with a mini-pc and the mini is only around $100-150.

barry (profile) says:

sony TV destropyed by a remote

I just wanted to share with you the fact that I destroyed my 15 mo SONY 55″ TV using a $2 remote control. I pressed a set of keys that caused it to never work again. It only turns on and off, and displays one channel. This must be a bug in the software I tripped over. I can’t get it to reset back to factory setting either as it needs the remote to do so. T

DM says:

You should have listen to the writer

As the article stated, a smart tv will become dumb after a few years or less. Some are gated and you cannot add apps or personalize. Youtube was recently turned off on all 2012 and newer model TV’s, Bluerays DVD and smart-players. Sony and Panasonic, took the biggest hit, Apple and Samsung as well.

Smart TV’s can quickly become dumb. I blame this primarily on Google, to change the format, so they can make more ad revenue for the stockholders. The manufacturers could have probably provided upgrades, but then why would you, you already made your money on the product.

matt says:

smart tv

Even with a smart TV, if it gets out of date or becomes to slow, whats stopping you adding a more upto date smart TV box later if needed?

Although smart TV’s might get slower with age or new hardware, you can always add another smart box later. but when new at least you have the smart TV in built.

I would be more worried about the quality of the TV and its internal parts lasting 10 years than any smart feature. samsung have had a lot of issues with TV’s failing just after warranty runs out. which leave the owner with a choice of expensive repair or new TV. my family members have had 3 failures with samsung TV’s all seem to have gone wrong shortly after warranty has expired.

No one in the family buys samsung anymore, myself i prefer sony, yes more expensive but at least not prone to failure and more likely to make it to 10 years old. as the old saying goes you get what you pay for, and although some samsung TV’s are not cheap they seem to use inferior component parts inside.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Monitor Everything (5)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Cool Components (1)
12:42 Tech Companies Ask European Commission Not To Wreck The Internet -- And You Can Too (4)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Play & Listen (1)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Beyond Chiptunes (12)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Updated Classics (3)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Celebrating Cities (1)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Crafts Of All Kinds (5)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: One Great Knob (13)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Simple Geeky Toys (2)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Gadgets For The New Year (18)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: A Post-Holiday Grab Bag (0)
13:34 How Private-Sector Innovation Can Help Those Most In Need (21)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Towards The Future Of Drones (17)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Artisanal Handheld Games (5)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: A New Approach To Smartphone VR (5)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Let's Bore The Censors (37)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Open Source For Your Brain (2)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: The Final Piece Of The VR Puzzle? (6)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: The Internet... Who Needs It? (15)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: The Light Non-Switch (18)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: 3D Printing And Way, Way More (7)
13:00 Techdirt Reading List: Learning By Doing (5)
12:43 The Stagnation Of eBooks Due To Closed Platforms And DRM (89)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: A Modular Phone For Makers (5)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Everything On One Display (4)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Everything Is Still A Remix (13)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Great Desk Toy, Or Greatest Desk Toy? (6)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: Sleep Hacking (12)
09:00 Awesome Stuff: A Voice-Operated Household Assistant (19)
More arrow