Smart TVs purchased in 2012 effectively obsolete by 2015

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Smart-TV sales will exceed 50 million globally in 2012, but most will remain unconnected; Long lifecycles, fragmented platforms and poor support undermine Smart TVs

Over 220 million Smart TV sets will be sold worldwide in 2017, up from the 54 million that will be sold in 2012, according to Informa Telecoms & Media’s latest Smart-TV device forecasts. 31% of households worldwide will own at least one Smart TV in five years time, according to Informa, with household penetration much higher in North America (63%) and Western Europe (64%).

However, while Smart-TV connection rates are rising, they will continue to lag the connection rates of games consoles and media-streaming devices, such as Apple TV and Roku.

With their long lifecycles, TVs are simply not the right device to be the hub of the digital home. Instead, devices that are regularly replaced, including smartphones, tablets, set-top boxes, media streamers and games consoles, will be the key devices in the digital home experience. Smartphones in particular, with their short lifecycles and rapidly increasing processor power, will continue to define what ‘Smart’ means.

“Informa estimates that in 2017 more than half of the 800 million Smart TV sets by that time will only be used as dumb screens,” comments Andrew Ladbrook, Senior Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. “Moreover, while any ‘Smart’ TV bought in 2011 or 2012 can be used for streaming online video services for a few years, they lack the processing power and the necessary hardware to perform those Smart-TV functions that will be standard in 2015. Simply put, any Smart TV purchased in 2012 will be effectively obsolete by 2015.”

The manufacturers’ short-term support for their Smart-TV products will also prove a hindrance. New services will continue to be launched solely on the latest Smart-TV models – HBO Go, Skype, Onlive, BBC’s Sport app – which means that users who bought last year’s device are excluded.

The fragmentation of platforms and standards continues to plague the Smart-TV market. Apps cannot be easily released across multiple devices, since each Smart-TV platform demands bespoke development. This situation benefits the current market leaders Samsung and LG as they attract the top services first due to their strong positions. And, while Informa believes that Google TV or Android will come to be the default Smart-TV OS for Smart TVs, that is still some years away.

“If TVs are going to be truly smart, they must do more than offer a wide variety of online video services,” Ladbrook argues. “Instead they must add advanced functionality including voice control, motion control, advanced advertising, attractive user interfaces and two-way communications with other smart devices – so-called ‘second screens’ – allowing these devices to send video to the TV and also know what is being watched. Manufacturers should focus less on adding more content and more on improving how users can interact with that content.”