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back to article Do not adjust your set: TV market slows, 'connected TV' grows

It is always annoying when forecasters fail to forecast disruption: this is probably the most important part of the future to forecast, rather than incremental rises and blips in revenues. The TV segment is a case in point: sales of displays for the sets had been foundering since 2009, which didn't bode well. But analysts …

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tablets are as much to blame for drops in TV sales

Or maybe it's the crap programmes? I can go a week without even turning the TV on these days, despite having the whole range of Sky channels to choose from. I'm more likely to put the radio on, or read a book.

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Or how about simple saturation of the market.

People used to have CRTs, then the flat panels became affordable - that was some 10 years ago. People started replacing CRTs with LCDs. Also the broadcast changed from analogue to digital - again, an incentive to change.

But LCDs last for years and now everyone's got one. A lot got two - what else do they expect? Where is the extra demand supposed to come from?

Tablets may have become popular in the meantime but I am totally absolutely utterly convinced that tablets have nothing to do with the fall in demand for TV screens. I heard Greek yoghurt has also become very popular recently - why not blame the TV slump on it?

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"Or maybe it's the crap programmes?"

..perhaps this explains the rise in sales of 'connected' TVs - faced with channel after channel of rubbish on their dumb panel TVs, the customer can now go and buy a smart TV. And watch cat videos.

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You read my mind

Every report I've seen in the Reg on this topic seems to focus on why people are buying fewer TV sets in terms of what kind of hardware is most or least popular, and manufacturers responding by producing sets with more blingy, gee-whizzy crap, while ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room: the quality of actual televised content getting crappier almost by the day.

We have a satellite subscription at our house; the box is hooked up to the "main" TV in our bedroom, a 24" flat-view CRT we got about seven or eight years ago (we have a small flatscreen digital set in the kitchen where we watch OTA DTV while making dinner and such). The old saw about "400 channels and nothing's on" is pretty much the solid truth, based on what I see when I swing by the bedroom and catch my wife flipping through the channels -- pretty much every channel infested with reality shows, Top Chef knockoffs, and Law'n'Order reruns; even the BBC America channel seems overrun with that crap these days. The news channels are more like "noise channels"; ironically, the only news channel where we can actually find out what's going on in the world is Al Jazeera, which launched an American service recently.

It's been over a decade since I bothered to actually make time to watch a current TV show on an actual TV set. When Mystery Science Theater 3000 was cancelled in '99, that was pretty much it for me. About the only stuff I watch these days is Arrested Development (via Netflix on the wife's laptop) and old episodes of MST3K (on DVD or as mpeg4's, on my laptop).

The rest, these days, is pretty much pure crap, both on satellite/cable, and OTA.

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Crack wise if you want...

"..perhaps this explains the rise in sales of 'connected' TVs - faced with channel after channel of rubbish on their dumb panel TVs, the customer can now go and buy a smart TV. And watch cat videos..."

...but compared to most of the shit on TV these days, the cat videos are positively scintillating.

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Re: Crack wise if you want...

How long until they have their own Oscar category?

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"And watch cat videos."

And are amazed at how much more entertainment a home-made video of a family pet provides than the average singing/dancing crapfest....

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Bought a smart TV recently

For the bedroom, and the PS3. So long as there are consoles there should always be a market for large panels. Can't see myself becoming a movie watcher on a tablet either, though TV episodes seem fine.

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TV Makers are Tech Neanderthalers

I bought a connected HD TV recently. It still came with a remote with 101 tiny buttons, of which you need, at most 5, which you can then never find. There's no thought to usability. I'm forever hitting volume rather than channel change - because they put them right next to each other, and I suspect, swapped over from one of my other remotes - which means I then have to again, laboriously, reselect the HDMI port I want. becase the whole GUI is horribly slow to react, resulting in multiple miss-selections.

There was a ray of hope when I discovered there's an iOS app that can replace the remote, but, of course, it only supported some of the newer models in the range. Dammit.

But I have to admit the picture is nice. It's just everything else that sucks.

So, in conclusion, I'm not terribly surprised that sales in the TV segment are foundering (although I suspect they're actually floundering.)

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Re: TV Makers are Tech Neanderthalers

Try and LG with a smart remote, it has few buttons and works like a Wii remote, that's the most interesting thing I've seen in TVs lately.

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Re: TV Makers are Tech Neanderthalers

Actually I meant Magic Remote, the name slipped my mind for a sec.

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101 tiny buttons

... for each piece of equipment (tv blue ray, hard disk rec) even tho they are all from the same manufacturer.

And yet no simple way to enter text!

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Re: TV Makers are Tech Neanderthalers

There is something in the comment about "most interesting thing seen recently" is the remote. Flat screen TVs should have become consumables - easy and cheap to buy and take home (who remembers the weight of a moderately-sized CRT telly?) The manufacturers have failed on the "new feature" mill. If even the manufacturers regard the TV as a piece of furniture and market them like sofas, not gadgets, they are going to keep failing. At the very least, the marketing should be done to try to tempt the gadget geeks to keep buying - what about TV separates, like with audio equipment, for instance?

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Re: TV Makers are Tech Neanderthalers

The 52"+ tv market is never going to be consumables. It's just too expensive to manufacture a screen that large. The 30"- tv market already is consumables and priced comparatively with the same sized computer monitors. But regardless of which one you put in a given location, does it really need to be replaced every 3 years? Certainly not the big one, which realistically is a capital investment for a family. But even for the one that is, do you replace it just because it's old? Tablets might have faster processors which become the real impetus to buy a new one. TVs don't need them.

Over the last 10 years we've gone from analog CRTs to LCD and Plasmas as well as from NTSC/PAL to HDTV. Those were real motivators to change. But now most people have finished replacing their old equipment and we are in replacement mode. Any damn fool who couldn't forecast that deserves what's coming. And the damn fools who keep flogging the meme that tablets are replacing pcs, tvs, etc will soon be joining them.

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Go on, then.

> It is always annoying when forecasters fail to forecast disruption

The article goes to great lengths to describe what is already happening. So, since tablets are a given and internet connected TVs, essentially tablets, with a sensibly sized screen and decent sound are nothing new - where's the disruptive technology the author is so keen for forecasters to forecast?

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Re: Go on, then.

Even the fact that they're still using terms like 'first screen' and 'second screen' show that they've missed the point. TV (and other content) now just bounces between whatever display device is handy and convenient at the time.

Chromecast and Apple TV have a few faults as a devices but the fundamental concept of TV now being just another stream on the network is a sound one.

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"What can a connected TV do that a tablet can’t? Not much,"

Well other than being watched by more than one person at once, from a comfortable slouching position and a good screen size to be viewed from a distance. Plus they always have a stand so you don't have to hold them up yourself.

That said isn't the main reason more connected TVs are being brought is that generally the most recent models are connected by default and there is a small price differential between them and dumb models.

There is also the fact that most people would have now upgraded from the CRT. The size of TVs has been large enough for long enough now that few people will be upgrading chasing larger sizes (particularly for bedrooms where bigger isn't always better). One of the few tangible benefits to upgrade (for most non-technical users) is it being connected.

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I agree with you. My viewing habits are as follows :

- watch Mentalist, Game of Thrones and a few others during the week with my wife and family in front of the dumb TV

- watch reruns of The Avengers or some other TV series I know by heart on my second screen while playing games on my PC (not much interested in game sounds any more)

- follow some YouTube channels I am interested in (Zero Punctuation, . . ) on the PC when I come back from work

- amble from my home office desk over to my daughter on the living room couch who calls me to show me some new thing on YouTube she think's I'm interested in

- on Sundays, watch a DVD with my family

As far as I can see, a tablet brings zero to this configuration, and a connected TV is not going to bring me much more.

Oh, and I have a beautiful 36" Philips CRT TV with Pixel Plus which is already 8 years old and working fine. I will obviously have to replace it one day, so chalk me up for a replacement buy in the next five years. That will be a problem for me, since I have no intention of allowing anyone to spy on my viewing habits without my express consent and I doubt very much that in 5 years time there will be any dumb TVs left.

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"I have no intention of allowing anyone to spy on my viewing habits without my express consent and I doubt very much that in 5 years time there will be any dumb TVs left."

So don't "connect" it then. Simples.

Unless by then it comes with some sort of 3g/4g/5g/6g built-in, pre-paid (or free) service,in which case you may need some wire cutters or a soldering iron or move out into the sticks :-)

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Anonymous Coward

''most people still desire an Apple iPad, most can only afford an Android device''

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

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Anonymous Coward

i wish I had known tablets are for consuming, not producing

I bought an Android, only because iPad had too much hype. Unfortunately, I can no longer afford the iPad.

Although, since androids are beginning to be larger in the market, more apps that are already mature on the iPad (I learned to my disgrace) - are beginning to be supported/ported to android.

Case in point: interactive TV (when at home) means I can watch TV on my tablet, should I need to (maybe CNN in the office @home).

More to the point - I wish I had not bought any tablet. No need for something small to see stuff - need something smaller than a laptop to produce (text based) articles. Only plus point: I understand tablet users a bit better.

p.s. also a coward - no desire for attention.

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Anonymous Coward

Yep you will want android....

When you find out the Ipad codec support is crap and moving files around is a complete pain in the arse.

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Simplistic

The arti

The article was really rather short on analysis.

What is significant is the combination of long term changes in how people view and short term variations in buying patterns.

For the latter, whether people are delaying, or no longer need to upgrade ( having got rid of the CRT as The Mole has noted). And maybe aren't watching as a family so much, so want indpendant viewing on a personal device.

For the former, whether they are choosing to spend money on the new novelty devices and watch You Tube, so aren't itching to get a new TV and anyway have already spent the cash on the shiny.

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Unhappy

I think they where hopping

That we would all be taken in by Blueray and HD the only problem is I can't actually see much of a difference even with my glasses on maybe i am slowly turning blind.

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Re: I think they where hopping

Where? Over there!

Hopping? Hopping mad!

I should say so.

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Re: I think they where hopping

A few issues.

First, get your prescription checked.

Second, a lot of the blueray films that came out in the first wave or two were just upscaled DVD releases rather than remasters. They're generally crap. It took a while for television broadcasters to really get the hang of producing HD content, which has resulted in ramping of quality just slow enough to be not-quite-perceptible. Compare TV now to TV then and it's pretty obvious how much higher the quality is.

Of course visual quality doesn't mean much if there's nothing worth watching.

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Saturation

Could it just be that most people have as many big TVs as they want/need and in times of financial insecurity paying a lot to replace a perfectly functional set with one which has some at best marginally useful extra functions is simply not an attractive proposition?

I finally swapped up from CRT SD (32") to LCD HD (46") a couple of years ago. There is nothing that the latest TVs can do that I cannot achieve with my current set and the things connected to it. Looking to the future I see no sign of that changing soon (4k is a joke - a very beautiful joke but still a joke for normal domestic use).

I'd rather spend my money on a new oven. At least it would save me having to clean the one I've got.

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MJI
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Re: Saturation

Bought my LCD a few years ago, no need to replace it yet.

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"I'd rather spend my money on a new oven."

I did. It's made by Samsung. And it cleans itself.

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WTF?

upgrade schmupgrade

My 'big telly' is a 28"CRT. Why don't I upgrade? Because the tv shows are so compressed that they are full of artifacts ( although, spookily, the adverts are not ). Why don't I buy a different cable service or leap sideways to satellite? Because the channels would still be full of dross.

Come to think of it, why isn't Virgin Media buying me a big new telly? I don't have to pay for billboards to advertise to me, why should I subsidise Virgin Media's advertisers by paying for their display device?

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MJI
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Re: upgrade schmupgrade

A lot of us are not TV centric, yes we watch TV, 1 to 2 hours a day, but they are also for watching films on, or for gaming on,

Watching broadcast is only part of it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: upgrade schmupgrade

We also have a 28" CRT TV and until we really need to won't upgrade for very similar reasons.

My PC has a 19" CRT monitor and until I can get a reasonably priced replacement that is as good in all areas that will stay too. 16:9 looses vertical pixels on the sort of size I want or there is some other "feature" you have to compromise on.

In both cases the good old CRT just works and is more than adequate for what we use both for.

(As I work for Virgin Media I can't really comment on the rest of the post.)

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Re: upgrade schmupgrade

"My 'big telly' is a 28"CRT. Why don't I upgrade? Because the tv shows are so compressed that they are full of artifacts ( although, spookily, the adverts are not )..."

My wife and I were over at the daughter'n'son-in-law's place for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago, and we were checking out their new digital flatscreen set, and the "crunchiness" was appalling, more artifacts than you could shake a stick at. It was like watching YouTube.

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Internet Connected TVs are still rapidly rising

Just out of curiosity - is this a corollary? If nearly all new TVs have an ethernet port stuck on the back, won't the sales rise as TVs are replaced? I can't believe there are many people having "internet connectivity" as a priority above, say "screen size" or "picture quality", or "price", but if it's just bundled along then they have a conencted TV.

It's a bit like when we switched to colour TV, over time the proportion of colour sets made increased, and eventually even if you wanted a black and white TV you ended up with a colour one.

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Re: Internet Connected TVs are still rapidly rising

Eventually many TVs will be connected - or 'enabled' - but the manufacturers still need to figure out how we should handle the connectedness. Flipping through the channels with up/down buttons is a no-brainer, but navigating through screen menus using a standard TV remote really sucks. If you need to type anything, it gets even worse.

Even when they manage to make an app for it (Sony in my home), the app is designed as a remote, and naturally that sucks too.

Make it easy to use, then people will start using it.

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Re: Internet Connected TVs are still rapidly rising

Agreed. Yes, there are times it would be convenient if I could just flip on Netflix from the 42" LCD tv instead of the BlueRay, but it isn't worth the upgrade price.

I think there may also be some problems with these so-called forecasters not understanding the effect the denominator has on percentages and they keep looking at only the percentages.

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Anonymous Coward

Turned our oldest LCD TV into a Smart TV

With little more than than the addition of a new Samsung Blueray Player. Now it behaves just like our big, Samsung Smart TV. Arguably, even the addition of a Playstation 3* makes your TV smart. So yes, there's an argument for keeping TV's dumb on the inside while making them all smart, and internet connected, on the outside.

* Playstation 3: Best way to watch Netflix, in our experience - Netflix seems to have a fat pipe into the Playstation network, which in turn seems to have a fat pipe into BT.

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Re: Turned our oldest LCD TV into a Smart TV

That's interesting about Netflix being better when watched via the PS3.

I have a Samsung Smart TV with a PS3 connected and I found that Lovefilm is the opposite. ie. using the Lovefilm player on the PS3 results in a far inferior stream than watching it via the Smart TV app.

OK, it's not THAT interesting, but the point is that if you have more than one way of accessing these services you should test them all because you'll end up with different results, even on the same screen.

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Re: Turned our oldest LCD TV into a Smart TV

Yep. Netflix goes through Sony's Playstation Network. I have to enter our PSN password to use it. 4OD and iPlayer OTOH are mostly better using the Smart TV app. ITV Player is, well, ITV Player - that's best watched on the lower res screen of my iPad Mini, so I'm not annoyed by how crap it is on the big screen!

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Re: Turned our oldest LCD TV into a Smart TV

>there's an argument for keeping TV's dumb on the inside while making them all smart

Agree, I brought my last TV back in the 90's. Once I got a Freeview box back in 2004, it was obvious that the traditional 'TV' was doomed, the 'TV' part now resided in the set top box, which has been regularly upgraded (PVR, HD, DVD etc.) When the CRT died a few years back, I just replaced it with a dumb screen (sound having previously been taken over by the set top box and media system).

About the only problem with using LCD monitors is that you do need to purchase a proper stand as the desktop stand is designed for desktop viewing, not viewing from the sofa or floor.

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This is excellent news

A few more months of declining sales and the manufacturers will start mass producing 4K TVs in an effort to win back sales - with a commensurate drop in price.

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Smart tv ? not in my house

Have a tv and a blu-ray with miracast built in.

I use the Nexus 4 phone to watch Netflix, iplayer etc etc on the tv using miracast, and with the $10 miracast dongle (google it) this will be an option for even more in the furture.

I see the tv as either linear for watch live shows like the news, Doctor Who etc or as a screen to display content from my phone that I stream from many sources.

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Just want big dumb panels

Honestly all i want is big dumb panels

I dont want the crappy "Smart" shit built in, I have a samsung tv, its smart apps are crap, iplayer takes forever to change between shows when browsing, whilst the iplayer channel in the plex app is instant, and even then i tend to use one of the consoles connected to the tv to do anything "smart". From what i have seen of most youview boxes they make the manuf's attempts at smart entirely redundant same goes with having a modern sky or virgin box.

So all i want is a HD LCD panel no tv tuner i have other better devices for that, no smart app's i have other better devices for that, i just want 9 hdmi ports (9 because a dedicated key with "10" on a remote would look wrong, and i dont want to have to press two buttons to access port 10), removable speakers as i have other better devices for that ;-), and a remote that just changes the HDMI port and volume and allows access to panel picture tuning i.e. like what i have on a monitor, any thing else is just crap i dont want. Give me that and i will be happy, hell may even start buying panels like that for use as monitors.

So TV makers be honest with yourselves, your panel makers, tv has moved on, and tv tuners will become an anachronism, content will be delivered in ways where the providers can keep nearly end to end control, i.e. via IP, with drm, with copy protection so that only viable way of recording content locally will be to intercept the screen buffer of the panel, and then re-encode the raw stream. (I know will never happen, and that there are numerous issues with what i have said about copy protection etc. but tbh as soon as services make it easier to stream than download the vast majority of people do, even if it via a "tax" as twats call it [no one forces you to use it, stop being cheap, get a job], or a subscription as sane people call it)

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Re: Just want big dumb panels

The big issue I see is you are stuck with some crappy old software in the smart TV that never gets upgraded and eventually becomes so outdated as to be useless. Maybe that is part of the strategy, forcing people to upgrade TVs more regularly to get the latest smart features, but that is very wasteful and the same can be achieved by plugging in a cheap HDMI dongle.

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Re: Just want big dumb panels

Exactly, hence 9 hdmi and a panel of bits please!

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Re: Just want big dumb panels

Exactly.

Everyone who has the slightest idea of what they're looking at sees the "Smart TV" as a lock-in to a poor service that will only get worse.

When you can buy the "Smarts" as a $50 external box, why on earth would you want to pay $100+ for internal smarts which are probably poorer and are highly unlikely to get any better?

I tried it once - I got a TV with built-in PVR. It was awful to use, crashed and burned regularly and with no prospect of any firmware updates, I sent it back as "not fit for purpose" and replaced it with a simpler, cheaper TV panel and 'smart' set-top box.

That STB gets over-the-air firmware updates and has a much better UI for using its "smarts", because the company that made it succeed or fail on their UI.

TV manufacturers don't. They see the smarts as a simple tickybox on the marketing, and to date have paid almost no attention to either sensible UI or to offering firmware updates (whether over-the-air or manually).

I have never even used the tuner in this TV. All I want is plenty of inputs, and an easy and simple, preferably automatic way to switch between them - plus routing of proper 5.1 audio out to external amp.

I'd be happy with just one input and an HDMI + audio switching box, except that the MPAA decreed such a thing can never exist as it would break HDCP.

Of course, there don't appear to be any TVs out there that can actually do this, they're all intent on being throw-away, non-upgradable junk.

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Re: Just want big dumb panels

Your experience of SMART TVs is not the same as mine. Perhaps your experience "I tried it once" is no longer reflective of the current day quality of the tech. I can't comment on what you used but perhaps things have moved on a bit. Here's my contrasting experience -

I have a 2012 Samsung Smart TV, got it during the Olympics, the Smart aspect was brilliant for the Olympics with its own dedicated channel for all the streams.

Since then, I have been using the iPlayer app, it is fine, both the app and the smart service seem to still get updates often. When I got the TV it had iPlayer and ITV Player, now it has 4OD and 5Demand as well as other stuff I don't care about. The Youtube app works with my phone, so I can find Youtube videos on my phone and play them through the TV.

IMHO if all you care about is being able to play the catchup services for the 'normal' channels (BBC, 4OD, ITV, and 5) as many of my more elderly friends and family do, then Smart TVs, or at least the Samsung I have, is the simplest and cheapest way to do it.

My big problem with Samsung's Smart app, is that there is so much 'bumpf', all these little apps that no one will ever use and can't seem to be deleted but yet are clutering up the UI, I mean Youtube is on the second page. And while it can sometimes play many DLNA files on my networked drives, it also sometimes cannot, and I can't work out why the difference.

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Linux

Re: Just want big dumb panels

> Perhaps your experience "I tried it once" is no longer reflective

Considering that to try ANY of these devices in any meaningful way, you are going to have to spend THOUSANDS in order do it, that should not be terribly surprising. If anything that just highlights the essential stupidity of the entire concept of a "smart tv".

Interesting features are tied to the manufacturer of your TV. They may or may not be able to deliver. Chances are that experiences will vary widely. Thus a consistent experience will require creating a sort of walled garden.

It makes much more sense to plug in a cheap disposable puck that can be easily and cheaply updated as needed and represent an easy way to enforce a common interface without locking yourself to a single display manufacturer.

This "enforce a consistent experience" idea is one of the main reasons I started using HTPCs.

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Re: Just want big dumb panels

That's exactly what I mean.

When the "smart" is a separate device, you can choose something with the features you want, and it's also more likely to get firmware updates, new features and to have a nice UI - because you have lots of choice.

When the "smart" is built-in, you have almost no choice (Sony/LG/Samsung/Philips/Tesco Value) and rarely, if ever get updates or even have a nice UI - you don't really like yours!

I now have a nice PVR set-top box, it does everything I want from a "Smart" TV (iPlayer, ITVPlayer, 4OD etc) except for DNLA sink (it can be a source though).

Most of those features have actually been added since I bought it, and cost me nothing extra.

When I decide I really do want to have that feature, or some other cool killer feature turns up that I want, I can buy a new STB or 'HDMI Stick" to do it, either replacing my current STB or in addition.

It's down to the cost. A good panel is expensive - £700-1000 and up. I'm only going to buy that once in ten years or so.

Good smarts change every year. Most users are not going to be happy being two-three years behind on that, but are not going to buy a new panel just for that, it's too much money. They might buy a new STB every couple of years, especially if it's £50-100 - or even less.

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Switchover done, not tablets

In my view, the last decade's rise in TV sales was for two reasons:

1. Thin, light, and slightly less power-hungry flat-screen HD TVs (plasma, LCD, LED backlight) became sufficiently affordable to replace bulky, heavy, very power-hungry SD CRTs;

2. Practically the entire world went through a digital switchover.

Both of the above reasons fed on one another and led to a boom in TV sales.

Both reasons will have petered out. The digital switchover is complete in the major economies and well underway in the rest of the world, with deadlines in the next few years. Those people who were going to replace their TV for one with an integrated digital tuner have done so; those who added an external box are no more likely to replace their TV than they would have before switchover.

The trouble for TV manufacturers is that they really haven't come up with a new must-have beyond HD, which for many viewers is still a marginal benefit. People might be buying TVs with 3D, they might be 'Smart' TVs, they might even have 4K resolution, but in most cases that's simply because those features were bundled with a TV that had the desired size, picture and sound quality on normal 2D, 1080p and SD broadcasts.

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