Smart TV hype suggests Android home invasion

With this year’s CES open for business, it seems that one of the headline products is web-connected smart TVs.

Last year may have seen 3D sets begin to make their mark, but after notably failing to make the desired impact, attention appears to be turning towards smart TVs.

We have already seen LG talk up its Google 2.0 TV, while Lenovo has announced its own Android-based set too, and it’s expected that Samsung will enter the fray.  Apple has also been murmuring about its own web connected TV recently, where it hopes it will win on content.

A report from DisplaySearch also suggests that this could be a sign of things to come.  In many countries, replacing sets is largely pushed by consumer interest in web-connected TVs rather than 3D.  In North America, this means that the million smart TVs sold in 2011 will increase to 24.7 million by 2014.

Just as 3D has struggled to become ubiquitous in the home, it seems that smart TVs will also face some challenges.

While launching of a wide range of sets should see a large increase in numbers shipped over the coming years, the impact is not expected to be huge. As smart TVs become more sophisticated there is increasing functionality, like apps and full browsers.  Indeed, the Lenovo K91 almost blurs the line between TV and all-in-one PC.

In the early days, such features will put device makers in direct competition with themselves, as they sell more accessible products like tablets. It’s on mobile devices that apps and web surfing are more at home, rather than on a screen across the room.

According to DisplaySearch, by 2015 TVs with unlimited web browsing capacity will make up under 10 percent of those shipped in Western Europe.

But as smart devices like tablets and smartphones become even more commonplace in homes there’s likely to be more scope for them to work together.  Watching TV is more suited to larger TV sets, and it’s the ability to wirelessly connect with tablets and smartphones will make smart TVs more useful.

It could be argued smart TVs are a sign that we’re on the way to convergence in the home. Which begs the question – which operating system is going to win out, in the end? It’s hard to see Apple’s locked-in approach winning hearts and minds forever. The nature of Android on a range of devices offers consumers the ability to pick and choose while staying on the same OS, rather than Cupertino’s like it or lump it approach. It was always Samsung’s idea when it originally pushed BaDa.

Companies like Qualcomm are ploughing heaps of cash into R&D, convinced that there will be convergence – eventually tying in with the Internet of Things – where your smartphone will act as the central, personal device for everything else around you.

With some high-profile smart TV announcements made and more surely yet to come, we’re certain the battle for controlling all the screens in and out of your home is going to escalate. No wonder the patent cases are flying.