Text | Posted by Phil Leigh on January 22, 2009
The annual Consumer Electronics Show has achieved such high-profile recognition that exhibitors are tempted to promote modest improvements as breakthrough advances. The sound and fury over “Internet-Connected TVs” at this year’s show is a good example. Upon examination it is clear that if the product announcements signify anything at all it is that the difference between a “Walled Garden” and a “Walled Prison” can be indistinguishable, as Napoleon III discovered. But that’s another story, and a good one.
Internet-connected TVs announced at the show fall into two categories.
First are those from manufacturers such as Sharp and Panasonic. They use proprietary technology to access limited Internet content. The model is much like one tried in the cell phone business with little success. Verizon’s V-cast is a good example. V-cast subscribes can only watch what V-cast provides. In contrast, the iPhone lets users go anywhere on the Net.
The second category is composed of those set manufactures like Sony, Samsung, LG, and Vizio, who are planning to integrate the Yahoo-Intel Widget platform. Unfortunately, only limited content will be available via the Widgets. Moreover, it is unclear how interactive advertising will work through such Widgets.
Yahoo is offering a Widget Developers Kit to encourage more websites to place content on the platform. They’re trying to emulate the success of the iPhone apps store and apply it to the TV. However, websites may be reluctant to develop such applications for three reasons. First, they don’t know if Yahoo will accept them. Second, they don’t know if the targeted TV set manufacturers will accept them. Third, there’s not much evidence that consumers will care owing to the limitations on access.
In short, it should be abundantly clear to anyone not living in a cave for the last decade that consumers will never accept limited TV access to the Internet. They did not accept it on their computers with AOL 15 years ago and they won’t tolerate it now on their TVs. After all, the TV is not so much different than a giant computer monitor. In point of fact, consumers can make it one merely by connecting their laptop computers to the TV and watching Internet Video over the set via the laptop’s WiFi connection.
In sum the Internet-connected TV’s of the 2009 CES have strutted their moment upon the stage to monopolize the press with spurious proclamations of great promise. But upon close inspection they are like the ravings of a madman, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Future Internet connected TVs are as certain as fleas on a yard dog, but they will be connections without limitations.