The Future of Television

It’s the end of television as we know it!

The end of remotes, the end of the cable box, and end of “dumb” one way video boxes… TV is about to reinvent itself. And it’s already happening.

Television hardware is currently experiencing a wave of innovation. Soon, people will be interacting with their TVs in more robust, interactive ways leveraging the capabilities of apps and new gadgets that promise to change the role of America’s living room staple.

We’ve broken down the key trends that will shape the future of television in the next few years.

TV and Computing Finally Combine

Televisions are about to start acting a lot more like computers.

As with smartphones, apps will be key.  While there are several app platforms already in place from the major set manufactures, the user behavior surrounding apps on TV has yet to be established. Consumers have yet to see the benefits of using apps on their TV’s.

However, a major push from television and device manufacturers aims to change this. Leading the charge are the game consoles.

This past fall, Xbox overhauled their interface to support apps. With this modification Xbox is bringing apps to a massive audience and helping consumers get comfortable with the idea of apps on their televisions.

The current Xbox dashboard allows for video streaming popular sites like Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu. Deals with several cable providers (including Comcast Xfinity and ATT U-Verse) allow users to watch TV through the console itself. Ultimately this could eliminate the need for a cable box altogether.


Xbox Dashboard

It’s been rumored that Nintendo’s upcoming console, Wii U, will also have an integrated app store that will offer a wider variety of apps beyond games and basic utilities.


Nintendo’s Wii U

It’s not just game consoles that are jumping on the app bandwagon. Internet-enabled TV’s are also growing in popularity and come conveniently preloaded with apps.  For instance, Sony TVs offers the Android-powered Google TV suite that connects users with the same list of services as Xbox in addition to the Android Marketplace. However, Sony has stopped production on this TV due to lack of sales and has instead dedicated it time to bringing a Google TV 2.0 version update to its current iterations.


Android Market

Despite Sony’s bad luck, sales for Internet-connected TVs are projected to grow 30% annually over the next three years (DisplaySearch). Not to be left behind LG (NetCast), Samsung (Internet@TV), and Panasonic (Viera Cast) have all put out similar products.

It’s safe to say the TV is evolving into a robust computing platform, but how will we interact with it?

Say Goodbye To Your Remote

It’s clear that the classic dial pad remote is not up to the task of dealing with the next generation of multi-media apps and interactions. Thankfully, there are a lot of companies working hard to redefine the way we interact with our television sets.

User centric design is at the heart of the recent influx of universal remote controls. The Griffin Beacon, the Philips Prestigo SRT8215, VooMote Zapper, and the Peel Smart Remote are all looking to simplify the living room multimedia experience.  If manufacturer’s have their way, you’ll no longer need 5 different remotes on your coffee table, just one to rule them all.  And it’s not even a remote… it’s a smartphone.

The Yves Behar designed Peel Smart Remote in particular is a beautifully crafted device that mimics the shape of a pear. This uniquely designed gadget began development as a glorified TV guide but wound up as a multi-device remote control that can not only control all your devices, but can actually help you find new things to watch.


Peel Smart Remote

Along with the free app, Peel allows users to control their entire entertainment system from their iPhone or iPad. Once the app launches the Peel fruit helps to aggregate television programs and makes recommendations based on what the user records. It also allows the user to post what they are watching on Facebook making the TV viewing experience social.

There are many new devices that are changing how we interact with our television sets; but will consumers be comfortable with all this change?  Don’t we love our TV’s just the way they are?

Apple Changes the Game Again

While Microsoft and other tech companies have taken the initiative to start the process, Apple will be the one that truly brings the promise of connected TV to life.

When Apple tosses their hat into the ring the whole game changes. The release of the Apple iTV (the name has yet to be released) will set the bar for the future of television.  Not only will Apple set the high water mark for the user interface, but they are sure to bring their incredible army of app developers to the television platform. The large influx of developers are sure to find ways to surprise and delight consumers with a range of functionality no one has even thought of yet.


Apple iTV

The Apple iTV promises to be an all-encompassing hub for our digital lives. Now, I am skeptical that a TV will replace our computers all together. However, I am sure that Apple will be a dominant force in consumer adoption. So who knows what will inevitably happen?

With add-on’s like voice recognition (similar to Siri on the iPhone 4S), Kinect-like features, and remote-less capabilities people will undoubtedly undergo a whole new viewing experience with the iTV. Users will be able to surf the web, get program recommendations, and share what they’re watching easily with their friends all without the use of a keyboard.

In short, Apple will continue to do what they do best: package technology into easy to use, inviting packages and show us how all this innovation is relevant to our lives.  The brand will do wonders to put consumers at ease in the midst of all this change.

Predicting the future is always a tricky business and certainly we’ve seen similar predictions for connected TVs before.  But 2012 is the year.  Disagree?  Share your vision for the future of television below.

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