for anyone expecting a fully integrated
) TV product. In his 2011 biography, Steve Jobs claimed that he had
"cracked" the concept of an integrated TV, and since then we've had
plenty of rumors -- but little else. We may as well be waiting for
Apple Inc. Still Can't Seem to Crack That
There was reason to hope. Consumers have spent the last few years
in a purgatory of dongles, set-top boxes, and half-baked "smart"
TVs. Manufacturers have watched as "second screens" grabbed
and then grabbed their wallets
. The world has gone mobile and content has migrated to the cloud,
while televisions still struggle to work with either medium. If any
company could solve the Gordian knot, it would be Apple.
That hasn't happened. Instead, the "smart" revolution has been an
excuse for everyone to run in different directions. Want an open
platform? We have the Smart TV Alliance, Android TV, and the Tizen
Association. A streaming device? There's Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV
- and that's just the A list. Then we have set-top boxes like the
) Roamio and
(OTCMKTS:SSNLF) Smart Media Player, Web-streaming game consoles
) Playstation 4 and
) Xbox One, and televisions preloaded with smart features that, it
few buyers use
So much for integration, and so much for getting rid of some of
these @#$% remotes.
Sadly, streaming from a tablet or PC hasn't been much of an
alternative -- at least, not yet. Older methods come with
limitations; HDMI requires you to plug in, and DLNA won't handle
Web content. On the other hand, newer solutions tend to be
proprietary and nonstandard. Airplay works great, but requires an
Apple TV. Chromecast pairs with most hardware (including iPads),
but will only mirror
) Chrome Web browser.
The best hope may be something called Miracast. It uses Wi-Fi
Direct technology, which until recently required an adapter for
your television (similar to the Chromecast).
(KRX:003550) began incorporating Wi-Fi Direct into its TVs last
year, and Samsung announced last summer that it was following suit.
This technology has also gone global on the device side. Android
adopted Miracast in late 2012, although implementation has been
slow due to underperforming hardware and the fragmentation of
Google's operating system. Microsoft added its endorsement last
month with Windows 8.1, which added Miracast as a native feature;
any Windows PC, tablet, or phone running a 4G
(INTC) chip should be able to take advantage of it. Intel deserves
the credit. The chipmaker stewarded the adoption of Miracast,
instituted a hardware certification regime, and built out some of
the early software. (Intel video
It's not a perfect solution. A well-designed, integrated TV would
be even simpler -- for a while. Media providers have
hitched their wagons
to the mobile industry, and they're now riding the two-year upgrade
cycle. Hardware and content are evolving quickly, while televisions
only get replaced, on average, every seven years. An integrated TV
would be the best of all possible worlds for about 12 to 24 months.
After that, it would become a museum piece too expensive to
replace, and deadweight for whatever operating system had to
support it. Google already has problems keeping Android current;
just imagine the headaches it will face supporting Android TV. It
seems unlikely that even Apple can save the smart television, and
in fact, we could probably blame the iPhone for killing it.
Video-game consoles and set-top boxes are no panacea. Many of them
carry the same limitation as televisions; their primary function is
to play games, record shows, or spin discs - not provide a smart
platform - and they don't get replaced very often. It's easier and
less expensive to go with a streaming device like Roku, but that
means adding yet another appliance to the living room.
If we can't have an integrated TV, we can at least hope for a
universal remote. More than half of American adults now own
smartphones and/or tablets, and according to research from the NPD
almost all of them
use these devices while watching the tube. It would seem to be a
match made in heaven, and if industry trends continue, we'll soon
hear wedding bells.
Google Search Adopts iPhone's Most 'User
Microsoft Office on iPad: Will New
Third-Party App Spell Trouble for Surface?
Cisco's Got Problems on Every Front