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If Apple is indeed planning its own HDTV (the rumored "iTV") the time may be ripe. Over 220 million Smart TV sets will be sold worldwide in 2017, up from the 54 million that will be sold in 2012, according to Informa Telecoms & Media’s (www.informatandm.com) latest Smart TV device forecasts.
The research group says that 31% of households worldwide will own at least one Smart TV in five years time, according to Informa, with household penetration much higher in North America (63%) and Western Europe (64%). However, while Smart TV connection rates are rising, they will continue to lag the connection rates of games consoles and media streaming devices (such as Apple TV and Roku).
With their long lifecycles, TVs are simply not the right device to be the hub of the digital home. Instead devices that are regularly replaced, including smartphones, tablets, set-top boxes, media streamers and games consoles, will be the key devices in the digital home experience. Smartphones in particular, with their short lifecycles and rapidly increasing processor power, will continue to define what ‘Smart’ means.
"“Informa estimates that in 2017 more than half of the 800 million Smart TV sets will only be used as dumb screens," says Andrew Ladbrook, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. "Moreover, while any ‘smart’ TV bought in 2011 or 2012 can be used for streaming online video services for a few years, they lack the processing power and the necessary hardware to perform those smart TV functions that will be standard in 2015. Simply put, any smart TV purchased in 2012 will be effectively obsolete by 2015."
Manufacturer’s short term support for their Smart TV products will also hinder the device. New services continue to only be launched solely on the latest Smart TV models - HBO Go, Skype, Onlive, BBC’s Sport app -- which means that users who bought last year’s device are excluded.
The fragmentation of platforms and standards continues to plague the Smart TV market. Apps can't be easily released across multiple devices, since each Smart TV platform demands bespoke development. This situation benefits the current market leaders Samsung and LG who can attract top services first due to their strong positions. And while Informa believes that Google TV or Android will come to be the default Smart TV OS for Smart TVs that is still some years away.
"If TVs are going to be truly smart they must do more than offer a wide variety of online video services," Ladbrook argues. "Instead they must add advanced functionality including voice control, motion control, advanced advertising, attractive user interfaces and two-way communications with other smart devices – so-called ‘second screens’ – allowing these devices both to send video to the TV and know what is being watched. Manufacturers should focus less on adding more content and more on improving how users can interact with that content."