Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Television Is Already A Dumb Terminal

No matter how much television manufacturers try to smarten up their TV sets, I believe a vast majority only use it as a dumb screen connected to a smart box.  If essentially your remote is used to turn the TV on or off, raise or lower volume, or perhaps switch input devices, your screen is a dumb screen.  All the content that streams through it comes from another device, your cable box most likely, or perhaps a game box, blu-ray or DVD player, Apple TV, or some other separate box connected to your set. 

So why are we paying for smart TVs with WIFI and other content applications?  Because companies are hoping you will prefer an integrated experience, but history has proved otherwise.  In the old world of stereo entertainment platforms, some manufacturers offered us one box that combined turntable, amplifier, radio, and speakers in one; the more sophisticated devices were separate pieces that plugged together.  The best receiver, the best turntable, the best speakers, the best CD player for the price you wanted to spend.  So while some customers may like a smart TV, I believe most prefer the separate devices that fit their budget and their lifestyle.

Mark Arana, executive director for strategy and innovation at Walt Disney Studios, at an OTT panel at Streaming Media West, seems to believe that "television will become a second screen, essentially a dumb terminal for content streamed from mobile devices."  I'm quite surprised at this remark as a future occurance as it has been happening for more than a decade.  Just look at the penetration of cable boxes in the home, mostly happening years ago when cable operators switched from analog to digital and required a converter box to unscramble signals.  At that point, the TV became a dumb device.  Since then, more and more boxes have emerged, thanks to the rise of streaming, to offer more content choice into this same dumb box, as well as into tablets, smartphones, and laptops. 

Consumers can pick their platform and pick their device to view, no longer tethered to the TV set.  Its allure continues to be the bigger screen, but for consumers that demand mobility and more personal viewing, the TV set is simply one monitor choice.  But second screen, I don't think so; it still represents for many homes the central focal point for family viewing.  Its simply a dumb screen with many more content platforms to connect to it. 

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