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The Idiocy of 'Smart' TVs

Equally how credible is this "largest screen" argument? Browse Facebook or tweet about the latest episode of Pop Idol (shudder the thought) and the show is reduced to a tiny window on the TV making it good only for eye strain. TVs may be large, but they are viewed from three or more metres away. Your laptop sits little more than 50cm from your nose and lets you do whatever you want without interfering with the channel in front. Besides most of these companies are also trying to pitch tablets as the ultimate coffee table companion.


I hear the cry: if you don't like it, don't use it. Yes, but we still have to buy it. If we want a low power PC we can configure it accordingly, if we want a phone only to make phone calls we can purchase a dumbphone. If we simply want the best quality TV picture with the best quality audio we have to pay extra for limited PC hardware and software we don't need, both of which will date the television prematurely.

Manufacturers can preach convergence all they like, but the real reason for 'smart TVs' isn't to make our lives more convenient - ever tried typing on a TV remote or keeping a keyboard by the sofa? It comes down to money. With streaming video services gaining popularity TV makers have decided they want a cut. They aren't content to just provide the TV while you buy DVDs and Blu-rays, they want a percentage from every Hulu, Netflix or LoveFilm title you buy through their platform. Samsung has recently signed an agreement with CBS, Sony has inked a deal with Time Warner. These TVs, like smartphones, are expected to keep on earning revenue well past the point of sale.

So hang on, isn't this just adding up to an anti-capitalist, anti-evolutionary rant against the future of our television viewing? Not in the slightest, because to assume so would be to miss out on my central point. I'm not anti 'smart' television, I'm anti 'smart televisions'. Smart televisions are cynical, deliberately proprietary, money making attempts by manufacturers to try and differentiate their products by gimmicks rather than by concentrating on the fundamental value of making a good TV.

By contrast smart television is an exciting advance of the TV platform and its early steps can be seen in the likes of the WDTV Live Hub, Apple TV, Google TV and Boxee Box. We can try any of these platforms for under £150 and should one platform fail or be substantially upgraded the box can be quickly and painlessly swapped out. If TV makers truly want to bring us smart television then they should have the brass to focus on building rivals to these products instead of forcing them upon us inside the televisions we buy.

The future of smart television is hugely exciting, let's hope the future of smart televisions is mercifully brief.

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