Sunday, January 9, 2011

CES: Smart TV? No thanks.

One of the trends at this years CES is what some are calling Smart TV’s. In fact it is a trend that the manufacturers have been pushing for the past couple of years. However many technology companies are jumping on this bandwagon including Intel who has decided that if they aren’t going to get the Mobile market they will go to the larger consumer devices like flat panel TV.

To all of these manufacturers I say “No Thanks,” and I suspect most of the consumers are going to agree with me when they find out what these devices are going to cost them. I’m not just talking price tag either. The big issue is going to be with upgrades, obsolescence and maintenance.

Consider the old desktop computers that used to come with hard disk, CD, Monitor and even keyboard all built into a single box. They didn’t allow you to update at all as the components were non-replaceable and non-user configurable. If a particular piece stopped working, you had to send the entire thing in for repairs. And if you wanted to upgrade you replaced the entire device. You couldn’t just get a bigger monitor or new keyboard, etc.

What if you buy the new TV set with Google TV built in and find that Microsoft has a better product? Will you be able to change the TV? Probably not. You’ll either have to stick with your purchase or sell it and buy the competition.

Thanks, but no thanks. I prefer my TV to do what it does as good as it can do it: display video and optionally play audio. If I want Internet programming, then I will attach a Boxee or a Roku box. If I want a DVR I can use TiVo or the product of my choice. And if one of those stops working I don’t have to send the entire TV in to be repaired.

So why are the manufacturers pushing this when it seems clear that most consumers will end up taking a pass? Because their sales numbers are going down. They pushed flat panel HD TV for the past few years and we all upgraded. They tried to push 3D TV in 2010 and we didn’t buy it. Nobody is seeing enough advantage in 3D to make it a big seller.

So the manufacturers are looking for the next big feature that will get us to replace the 50” HD TV again. While I laud their attempts at innovation I think this is yet another trend that is not really in the best interest of the buyer.

Give me the best picture quality and the most input options for my devices, and leave the features outside please.

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