Yes the first Internet connected, Android-based TV will come from a Swedish company uniquely named People of Lava – which is also reportedly the first TV to be built in Sweden for several decades (presuming the units are ultimately built in Sweden).Not that other company names aren’t “unique” mind you, but I think in this particular case extra credit is due.The name, as the company explains “signifies the emphasis on the company’s greatest resource – its People, who live the spirit of drive and innovation of the company.”Going beyond the company name, the People of Lava may have also embraced an apropos phrase: “A Window to the World.”For obvious reasons this statement is fitting because, metaphorically speaking, it opens up a “window” to the (virtual) world through social networks, email, potentially voice/video calls, etc; these TVs however might also foreshadow a potential direction for connected TVs.
In most respects the market for connected TVs is just starting to develop (some countries like Japan aside).Many critical issues remain and numerous more wait just in the periphery; issues such as connectivity (Ethernet or Wi-Fi and if we look further down others like G.hn, HomePNA, MoCA, Powerline), system resources and hardware (e.g. CPUs, GPUs, bus speeds, memory, etc), and software (applications, media/web browsers, operating systems, etc).If we distill all of these issues down to a basic, elemental level, a common question begins to emerge: what will it mean to have a connected TV?
This question isn’t meant to have any philosophical undertones nor is it intended to elicit a “duh” response; rather it raises fundamental issues such as usage models, feature sets, and services.In other words will the connected TV begin taking on roles more closely associated with other devices such as computers, phones, game consoles, video players, etc or will it carve its own unique niche?As one might presume expectations indeed run the gamut – helping to explain this wide breadth of opinions one can point to existing models and traits more unique to the TV itself.As TV manufacturers and consumers alike begin to employ verbiage such as apps, widgets, social networking, email, streaming video, etc, in their dialogues comparisons to existing models and platforms are inevitable.While associations to the mobile market (as the case will be with Android) breeds familiarity it also potentially lends itself to unrealistic expectations. It is very likely that the number and variety of applications designed for the TV platform will pale in comparison to the mobile markets.Principally the user interface and functionality between the two platforms are disparate enough to warrant separate software pools – one is a communication device (small screen) first and the other is entertainment centric with a “lean back” approach (the computer often cited as “lean forward”).
Another consideration is the length of service life – TVs in general have a much longer lifespan in the home than mobile or computing devices.With this facet in mind the hardware in TVs will play a more significant role in the user experience a few years down the road.Consumers are generally unaccustomed to obsolescence when it comes to their TVs - even for terrestrial TV viewers converter boxes can support analog sets for analog shut offs.If applications for the TV start to engender generations of connected TVs, this could give rise to a fractionated installed base for a lengthy period of time given the longer lifecycles.This might lead to breakout boxes or greater reliance on other devices like game consoles, Blu-ray players, nettops, or other connected “boxes.”While this would allow consumers to more economically “upgrade” their televisions, the user experience might be less streamlined (e.g. have to switch inputs to access the box).Should this come to fruition the pay-TV operators might have an advantage as they begin adding many of these similar services/features through their STBs.
In any event, People of Lava has taken a significant, albeit relatively small (due to size of the company’s presence) step forward in the connected TV space.The inclusion of a wireless keyboard and pointer/mouse peripherals are also indicative of a forward looking thought process.While a great deal of uncertainty still surrounds the connected TV, in terms of what it will ultimately include or even how consumers will get connected; what is certain however is that connectivity will continue to grow and become an ever increasingly important feature.The People of Lava might very well provide customers a “Window to the (Virtual) World” per their tagline with their connected TV, but this step might also provide us a small glimpse through a “window” looking out towards the future of the connected television as well.