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It’s not easy being a television manufacturer these days. Most homes, especially in the West and the wealthier parts of Asia, now have a large flat panel TV, thank you, and don’t need another one. Sales, then, are not as strong as they once were, pushing down prices and, in turn, whittling production margins from razor thin to …

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One wonders why they're not making, er tablets. Since those seem to be popular.

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Mushroom

I want dumb TVs

The dumber the better. Give me decent output connectors so I can route stuff through my own boxen - which you will never be able to better configure than me for my needs - you concentrate on making sure the screen shows what's necessary and does so with the minimum amount of fuss.

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Re: I want dumb TVs

More HDMI and USB ports would be nice.

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Re: I want dumb TVs

Seconded. I want an idiot box.

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K
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Joke

Drop the smart act... slip me 10 Inches

Cause size really does matter, and its more important that brains!!

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Re: I want dumb TVs

I want dumb TVs and smart controllers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I want dumb TVs

Agree additional IPTV services are better handled via external box(es), and a dual-core netbook with HDMI out connection is my solution, bought for £129 as an Argos return

This solution is probably future proof within the life expectancy of the TV and netbook.

But it is actually a third screen solution, because by using Synergy the IPTV netbook is normally controlled from another netbook used simultaneously at my armchair, while watching TV. Full keyboard and mouse control with an EPG/Windows Media Centre is obviously preferable to faffing about with a remote control and on-screen software keyboard.

While it may be possible to use a Raspberry-Pi, or similar kit, as the IPTV box, using a netbook has the added advantage of it being a PVR when required. With a standalone dual-channel PVR-HD+, it means that I can record three programmes as well as watching one using the TV's tuner, a situation that sometimes arises at 9.00pm here in the UK.

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Holmes

Re: I want dumb TVs

Yep Synergy is a good choice. Also I like a cheap wireless keyboard I picked up with integrated touchpad.

No way you could convince me a remote control is going to be better than that if I am trying to keyword search my media.

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Re: I want dumb TVs

The smartest controllers are called "humans". Oh wait..

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Re: I want dumb TVs

The only downside to dumb screen + external box(es) is that my father can't grasp the procedure to turn on the tv from the PVR remote control. I guess a universal remote with macros would resolve this issue.

Most people I know don't have rooms so minimal that they get upset by an extra box or two- indeed some boxes hide behind the screen on the Vesa mount- so integrating features to the screen itself makes more sense for second TVs in kitchens and bedrooms.

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Re: I want dumb TVs

Oddly enough, I have a solution to that one. The Raspberry Pi plugged into the USB port of my television powers on when I turn on the TV and switches it to the correct input with that there CEC feature. After that I do everything through XBMC, and when I tell XBMC to power off it shuts down the pi and then shuts down the TV along with it. Freaking marvellous it is.

In the interests of fairness there are downsides. I have to unplug the USB if I want to use my tv for anything that doesn't involve xbmc because otherwise it grabs the screen when I switch it on, which means a little bit of dinking to get it back and then mucking around to tell the pi to switch off the tv when I'm done. I don't watch broadcast television any more (and haven't for years - bye bye TV license!) but I do play a couple of xbox games now and then and the wife still occasionally pulls out the PS2 for her Final Fantasy fix.

Other than that it's bruddy marvellous.

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"Is the TV really be best device for web surfing?"

No, but then I don't even think tablets and phones are. There are too many websites that just don't like small touch screens.

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Anonymous Coward

TV's are not good for surfing the web, if its a free feature then nobody is going to complain.

Phones too are bad for using the internet. Tablets are perfect for the web but using them for work ( word processing) is a bad idea.

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Anonymous Coward

Watching Youtube on the TV is quite good.

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Staring them in the face

The answer is staring them in the face: video calls.

Plug your TV into your phone line and ethernet and make and answer calls on your TV.

Dumb this down to the level of the iCrowd and charge a fortune for it.

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Joke

Re: Staring them in the face

Don't forget to make video calls only possible if the person at the other end has the same brand of TV as you. Interoperability is for communists.

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Re: Staring them in the face

My TV already has this.

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some things make sense, some don't

When I eventually replace my current TV with a new one, there will be few features I will expect the new one to have. These actually reflect changes in mini HiFi systems, that is ability to stream data from network (both local and Internet services). So the fact that TV vendors are exploring this direction is a good sign, even if they do it a bit too eagerly for some peoples (mine included) taste.

For example, I will want my new TV to be able to connect to my subscriptions in LoveFilm , blinkbox , Netflix etc. , just like my HiFi can stream directly from my Spotify and last.fm accounts. Most likely I will not use all of those, but there is no telling which one actually I will want at the time when I buy a new TV. A HiFi delivers wide choice of connection services, but I only use some. On the other side of the same coin, just as I will not buy a HiFi which does not support my accounts to streaming services, similarly I will not be considering a TV which does not do that.

Secondly I would like my TV to be able to stream MPEG, WMV etc. video files , but also DVD and BluRay images saved on local NAS server (just like my HiFi can stream MP3 and FLAC files) but this is where it gets tricky. Manufacturers will have to make a choice: stream only unprotected content (thus encouraging stripping of DRM protection by the users when one makes a copy of owned DVD or BluRay) or employ proper DVD / BluRay certificate on a TV, and act in lieu of a DVD / BluRay player , thus potentially cannibalizing sales of these devices. Judging by the way it went for WiFi, I see former as more likely option but I don't mind, I have certain product from Slysoft to help me manage my own DVDs and BluRays. Oh did someone say that format shifting is illegal? That will probably have to change, too.

There is yet another role which TV can fulfill and that is communication device - Skype video being one example. But why not Apple and BB video chat? If these can be licenses then yes, I'd like to have those too on a TV.

As for fully functional computer? No, thank you, I have other devices for this.

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Re: some things make sense, some don't

Just stick a Raspberry Pi in there provide a decent remote keyboard, and be done with it!!

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Re: some things make sense, some don't

I do not need to stick a Raspberry Pi into my Onkyo to access my Spotify account, why my TV should be any different? This one thing aside, a TV is media consumption device, you shouldn't need a general purpose computer you have setup yourself (no matter how small or cheap) to make it work.

Just imagine how TV would be used by a layman, given the possibilities.

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Anonymous Coward

Bugger the smart TV. My PC has been connected to the telly for years and years.

Yes the telly is a good medium for web browsing. I often browse web pages, with friends around the telly.

The telly just needs to display content I send to it. It doesn't need to have all of this functionality built in, I just want a built in sky decoder and fully fledged PC. The rest of the crap is just filler.

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No matter how smart the TV is it will always stumble on something that a PC will cope with. My TV viewing has been via a PC almost exclusively running MediaPortal for about 7 years now.

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For viewing streaming content from iPlayer, blinkbox or Lovefilm I'd very much prefer if I did not have to keep my PC running. TV able to do it all by itself is what I would actually prefer, thank you. If my PC is running, I'd rather do it more useful stuff rather than command its HDMI output. For example, I like to do my email on a PC, browse web, run some VMs and compile stuff, at the same time when the kids are watching a movie I rented in blinkbox.

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Personally I can see a role for a smart TV along for very lines. When I first got this (Samsung) TV that I'm using as a monitor I observed it had an ethernet port, a general computer processor and support for USB keyboard and mouse. The only thing stopping it being a thin client X/RDP/VNC/whatever terminal is a bit of software. That software simply isn't there though so I have a Neoware thin client also sat on my desk, consuming power and taking up space for something the TV itself is perfectly capable of doing for itself.

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Trollface

If your PC is running?

You only have one?

BURN THE WITCH!

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The UIs aren't great

Watching Netflix content is superb on our Samsung Smart TV. Finding content and making it ready to watch (i.e. finding, clicking play and letting it run for for a couple of seconds) is far easier to do on the laptop, the Android tablet, the iPad, the Android phone or the iPhone (I say again - too many toys in our house)!

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Mushroom

Smart TV has a problem

The problem I have with "smart TV" functionality is that it is so woefully slow and unresponsive compared to other devices that we use nowadays.

On my tablet or phone I can start the You Tube app, click through or search for a video and be watching it in under 10 seconds.

Try to do the same on any "smart TV" that I've tried and you've got to navigate the menu system, wait for it to sort itself out, load the (presumably heavyweight Java) app, then try to navigate the UI with the customary 0.75 second lag on the controller/text entry, then watch a spinner/throbber for another 5-10 seconds before the video starts.

Same broadband connection, an order of magnitude longer to get going.

And woe betide if you want to quit watching You Tube and go into Netflix. For that you've got to quit to the beginning and start the process all over again!

Until the devices can offer smooth, easy UIs like Android or iOS then they'll never be adopted in anything like the numbers that manufacturers hope.

Don't get me wrong, I make use of it at the moment but it is far from a pleasant experience, and the annoying thing is that the technology to enable a fast, responsive UI is already in there (if an RPi can do it...), but ignorance/inability/pride/intransigence prevents it being implemented.

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Smart TVs will die

I guess that smart TVs will die out soon after the manufacturers "end of life" their early smart TV products.

We are used to a TV being something that, once bought and installed, contionues to give years of service. When the TV manufacturers decide to pull the plug on the servers providing the smart TV service, customers will be up in arms that the manufacturer has in effect stolen their TV from them. The fallout will be either plummeting demand for smart TVs, or the manufacturers deciding that providing the ongoing support for them is not worthwhile.

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Simple solution

So one has to wonder, rather than turning the TV into the tablet, why not leave the TV as the display area and turn the remote into a second-screen tablet? Have the two fully linked and then you can probably do all sorts of clever stuff between the pair. Or would that incur a lawsuit from Nintendo as copying the Wii U?

I've seen a few Android apps to turn tablets into TV remote controls, but I'm meaning a wider collaboration than just changing channels etc. To have the remote second screen as a full interactive partner to the main screen for tweeting/voting/commenting etc.

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I Like It

Well enough. I've got a Samsung LED that is "smarter than my last TV anyway". I often use the browser to read the news from my back deck while I'm outside smoking and drinking my morning pot of coffee. I was reading this site this very morning.

If it had any features I find lacking it would be not enough in/outputs. More HDMI and USB is what I would really like in my next TV.

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Why don't the TV manufacturers just provide a free tablet app (Apple and Android) with their TV ?

This could include all the usual remote control functions, remote viewing (e.g. so you can wander off and make a cup of tea while still watching a live event), streaming, etc without them messing around trying to make the TV itself interactive.

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@ arbee

Sony do this, I have the remote for the Bravia in the bedroom on my iPhone.

I also like the Sky+ app on the tablet, it's a lot better than the EPG guide on the Sky box, tells you when you have recording clashes, helps you sort them out with good suggestions for alternative recordings

Also, I hate to say it but the TV catchup services on the sky box are WAY better than those on the PS3, iPlayer on the PS3 is soooooooooo Sloooooooooooow compared to the iPlayer on the sky box.

All in all, my "dumb" TV has enough "Smart" stuff attached to it for my liking

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We don't need Smart TVs that will be obsolete in 6 months, a small set-top (or behind/under/wherever the set) box is a better solution.

If you want to add a camera for Skype into the TV, fine but make it able to feed into the USB of the external box as a webcam.

This way when there is a OS upgrade, or a new 'next big thing' you can just upgrade the box or replace it.

All I want from a TV is a good quality display and a ton of usable inputs/outputs.

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Coat

They might be smart TV sets, but unfortunately there's nothing smart to watch on them. They don't get called the "idiot's lantern" for nothing.

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Is your brightness too high?

It's the "idiot's window" here...

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Happy

Re: Is your brightness too high?

I used to think there was a control on the telly to increase the programme intelligence. There one marked 'brightness' but it doesn't do a lot.

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@Stuart Logland

Where is the +100 upvote button?

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Anonymous Coward

planned obsolescence

The smarter they get, the quicker they will be old hat, and out of support.

Look at phones now, you're lucky if you're still getting updates at the end of your 2 year contract.

What's going to happen when the iPlayer API changes in a year and your 2 year old TV doesn't get an update?

Maybe they'll make an update, maybe they won't and hope you go and buy a brand new TV.

Keep the screen as a screen, and plug in the content.

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Unhappy

Re: planned obsolescence

Also noticed they don't advertise 32" anymore? They want to force bigger screens on us.

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Smart TV, dumb name

"My Home Screen"?

I don't think a stupid-ass Fischer Price name is going to help sales.

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Re: Smart TV, dumb name

They said that about Windows XP too.

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MJI
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All _I_ want is

The best panel I can afford

The best processing they can do (upscaling and deinterlacing ect)

A Freeview tuner for watching breakfast news and I don't want to power up a Freesat PVR

LOTS of ports, 3 or so Scart, more than 4 HDMI, component, different picture/sound modes per input.

My current TV does most of this but only has 3 HDMI.

I have one quiet PVR so boost the sound on that one, others are OK.

A games console does the streaming and BluRay, a DVD player does DVD and audio duties, but I need more ports on my amp

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MJI
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Re: All _I_ want is

I forgot

Logo removal, I would pay an extra £100 for a TV which made ITV and C5 watchable, and removed the sea sick from CBBC (I cannot be in the same room - I get very queasy)

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it's all about the video, of course.

My ideal TV would copy 5.1 sound systems, where you plug in a microphone and they can make a passable effort at self-calibration. Why can't TVs do this? Most people i know are watching their TVs with colour and contrast completely out of whack.

How about a very rapid power saving mode that goes off when there is no one in the room and comes back on again when you come in? Audio muting optional.

How about non-sucky picture-in-picture controls? Or digital logo removal processing?

There's a lot of smart things TVs could do, but smart TVs don't seem to do any of them.

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MJI
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Re: it's all about the video, of course.

Upvoted simply for log removal

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Joke

Re: it's all about the video, of course.

...and a further +1 for logo removal.

We have enough deforestation anyway without encouraging it.

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Mushroom

Still a long way to go... yes, talking to you Samsung

Our 2012 smart Sammy is a great screen and thin, but "smart"? Not so much.

It's is by far the least able device in the house for holding a wifi connection. It sucks. And entering a secure password through the remote is a PITA. Oh, with no wifi you obviously can't then use the remote app either. Arrggg...

Secondly, the one service we'd like to use, Blinkbox, has a compatibility problem with the Sammy. Apparently to do with how it handles Java. So even with ethernet cables trailing from the router you're SOL.

As others have said, keep the image processing and screen tech, ditch everything else and save us a few hundred squids.

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Not 'smart' enough!

Obviously, TV is all about the content. But 'smart' TV does make sense. The problem is, no one has done (or is about to do) it right. A fragmented market of proprietary TV ecosystems and user interfaces is a nightmare, not a benefit to the consumer.

'Smart' TV today is simply not smart enough to be worth the effort.

On the other hand, an Android-enabled TV would make perfect sense. Then the controls would be standard, and the selection of apps would be big enough to be interesting. Integration with tablets or smartphones would be easy... Eventually, I'd have a tablet (or other Android device) on my coffee table as a remote. When the main TV was occupied with content, the tablet screen would let someone browse the channel guide, or maybe watch something else. (A programmable tablet controller would also neatly solved the insane problem of proliferating remotes, over which the AV industry should feel constant shame.)

All easy to do, no new technology required. Unfortunately, no one is doing it.

Even the Google TV fails, by trying to build some new dumbed-down interface, and a new, restricted app ecosystem. Still, the potential is evident. When I was trying out Sony's Google TV box, I found myself wishing it could play content from my local SMB network shares. Even with the miserable selection of apps specifically approved for Google TV, I was able to find an audio/video player app that did exactly what I wanted. This brought the whole concept to life. Wow - TV that can expand to do whatever I want! (Video calling? Download a Skype app. Don't like the built-in browser? Grab Dolphin, or Firefox.) If 'Google TV simply gave me unrestricted access to the entire Google Play library, under the familiar Android UI - plus transparent integration with other Android devices - I wouldn't want to be without it.

Bottom line, 'smart' TV should be about enabling familiar and desirable capabilities. Not larding on individual, proprietary features that no one asked for, and which make TV harder to use.

Unfortunately, AV manufacturers have no idea how to deliver that future - partly because they're congenitally unable to cooperate, and partly because software is a world they deeply fail to understand. I've long ago given up on Microsoft, which itself has closed, propriety products on the brain nowadays. But Google could step up, and I can't understand why Google TV has been such a feeble effort. The doomsday scenario is that Apple will walk in with a closed, infuriatingly limited - yet moderately usable - product and take over. As they did in phones. For some reason, the TV industry seems unable to learn from that historical precedent.

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Name and shame

Is there some company somewhere who specialises in churning out this anti-usability, bug-ridden, flaky, shit software, as used by TV makers, car manufacturers, and all those other bastards who want to saddle consumer devices with their cack-handed proprietary vanity-ware?

We need to find them, and target them with Hellfire missiles now. (Assuming, of course, that they didn't write the missile targeting software)

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