Smart TV or Connected TV - It's getting Competitive. And Messy.

written by: Richard Kastelein

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The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Walt Disney, owners of ESPN and ABC is rumoured to be in talks with Yahoo on making some of it's TV inventory available through the Yahoo Widget platform. Yahoo is also tightly working with ABC, CBS, HSN, and Showtime. Hulu, Comcast, Time Warner Cable are working on Samsung TV Apps. And maybe News Corp. (see below)

Further complicating the picture - Yahoo Apps are available on the Samsung TVs. Unless it's a Samsung that has Google TV - then you would likely not get Hulu, Disney, Comcast, ESPN, Time Warner Cable, ABC, CBS, HSN, and Showtime, most likely. Most of the broadcasters have been blocking Google TV. Google is too big - and a bit scary - they are protecting their inventory from being made easily available via the Google TV web browser. Unless they can make a deal.

It's getting complicated? Wait... there's more.

With a Google TV you will get full web browsing on the Internet.

If you have an older Samsung Smart TV (without Google TV)  you can't, right now, browse the Internet as it's all App based. However, PC World reports that the new Smart Hub platform released by Samsung TV will allow web browsing... which won't make ABC, CBS, HSN, Showtime, Hulu, Comcast, Time Warner Cable or Disney very happy as online video will become accessible... like Google TV. Unless Samsung can or will block Internet video from their browser.

Confused? So am I. And I have been covering this space for some time.

More from the Wall Street Journal:

...Companies including Apple Inc., Google Inc., and Cisco Systems Inc. have entered the race to combine Internet video and conventional TV in a variety of ways, including selling separate devices that attach to cable boxes and building software into cable boxes and new TV sets.

Why on earth the WSJ is comparing Apple and Cisco into the mix, I am not sure. I guess they are confused too.

Apple and Cisco are Set Top Boxes (STBs) providing Over The Top (OTT) content. They are not Internet TVs, Smart TVs, Web Enabled TVs, Hybrid TVs or whatever we are calling them this week. Or what LG, Samsung, Sony, Philips, Sharp, Toshiba, Loewe, Panasonic, Vizio and other CE manufacturers are building, Mostly  on different dev platforms of course... which is more confusing for developers and brands rather than consumers in this case. So let's call  them Connected TVs for now.

Then we have a single screen interactive platform in the UK called Youview rolling out in 2011. Which is backed by BBC and meant to bring video-on-demand to Freeview and Freesat but has been rejected by Sky Virgin Media, IP Vision, Six TV, United For Local Television and the Open Source Consortium who are protesting the new interactive platform (which also will allegedly have open APIs or an SDK for developers to create Apps). So how will that work with a Smart TV that also Apps included with the platform?

And on the continent there's the HbbTV consortium - a pan-European initiative aimed at providing an alternative to proprietary technologies and delivering an open platform for broadcasters to deliver value added on‚Äźdemand services to the end consumer. Which the Germans, French and Dutch seem to get along with. But it's largely a broadcaster's tool than anything... much like Youview.

Than again, they are working with both television broadcasters and CE companies therefore I am assuming in Germany I can buy a Connected TV that has either HbbTV, Google TV, or just the regular platform from the manufacturer.

Toss in Ultraviolet - the new video streaming DRM and it gets trickier. Which it wants the CE manufacturers to stick too. But last time I checked, Bittorrent had 100 million users a month and download times are in freefall for full feature movies as broadband gets faster. That's not good. Remember the music industry?

Oh and UltraViolet videos won't play in iTunes, nor will UltraViolet devices be able to play iTunes encrypted video. Apple and Disney, is backing its own competing system, called Keychest. Of course. Apple does not like making use of or paying for the use of tech they didn't invent. That's the main reason why your Mac will never play blu-ray disks.

Consumers are going to have some challenges in figuring all this out and buying their TVs in 2011. That's for sure. It's like untangling a decade of cables from behind the TV.

 

 

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