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The In-Home TV Ecosystem Stinks

Over the last week or so, I’ve had a number of meetings that gave me a chance to really consider and discuss the role of TV in our daily lives, and how it might evolve going forward. My conclusion is that despite years of development, there is still a great discrepancy between where we are and where we want to be.

Specifically, I’m talking about the TV living up to its potential in our “connected” homes. With so many connectable products, it seems a bit ridiculous that there is not yet a way to seamlessly connect all of these devices and share content easily among them. There are pieces that work relatively well together, but too often they are part of a closed proprietary system.

With the passing of Steve Jobs yesterday, I am reminded that, despite the fact that each of its products is designed to seamlessly interconnect, even Apple still doesn’t have a strong link to the TV. I have a pair of Apple TV 2s, each connected to a flat panel TV that I had hoped to use to greater effect to bring content from my mobile devices (computers, phones, etc.) to the biggest screen in the house. Yet it still doesn’t work well. To stream music, the PC has to be booted up and running iTunes, but my computers are laptops and it is inconvenient (and energy inefficient) to leave them running. Airplay works okay, but sometimes the devices don’t show up on my home network as available to work together. And the limited sources of streaming content on Apple TV means I have to switch to a connected Blu-ray player if I want to buy something from Amazon, which is not simple since my receiver only has two HDMI inputs, and I have three HDMI sources.

Regrettably, Apple is doing the best job among CE makers. DLNA compatibility is problematic at best, and while wireless connectivity (especially with the promise of Wi-Fi Direct) is the easiest way to connect devices, bandwidth is still a limitation in our HD/3D world. I just want to be able to easily move my content around the house—no re-configuring, problem-solving, or needing to find creative workarounds. This is my utopia.

Of course, my dream is someone else’s opportunity. The company that can figure out how to make the TV an active member of the home content sharing network will be well positioned to survive and thrive over the coming decades—be it on a proprietary or open platform. Display technology and performance has reached the point of “good enough,” and since many consumers view TVs as cheap boxes of less interest than the newest smart phone or tablet, the single biggest opportunity in the TV category over the next decade is making the TV a valuable contributor to home content consumption by simplifying its ability to join the network.

Our latest TV forecast points to slowing growth in developed regions, and profit margins are incredibly low already, so TV is at risk of becoming like the desktop monitor business—a race to the bottom of the commoditization curve with room for just a handful of competitors.

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  • Bruce

    It seems you have set up your home around Apple TV. I suspect it will not be long before Apple adds TV into their cloud but I have everything you claim to be missing without a single Apple component. A smart TV with wireless connection to a home server lets me stream all my personal videos, music and photos to the big screen and there are many options for online movie/TV/music services direct on the TV. The attached net-connected gaming console replaces my computers and laptops for everything but office productivity and browsing the internet. My cell phone operates my home server and I can stream media from home directly to the phone if bandwidth is minimal. The same internet radio account is available on the phone and TV. If my home server were more capable of being a terminal, I may not need to turn on my PC or laptop for days on end because the gaming console already has a camera and blu-tooth connectivity to a keyboard and two-way audio headset. One more step and I can transfer most of my core productivity needs to my server and online cloud services.