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Trends: In 2015 software will eat TVs

19 Jan 2015 | Rasmus Larsen |

We are back from CES 2015 and in a series of articles we will take a look at the trends that will shape the TV market in 2015 and beyond. We start by looking at TV operating systems – or software – and how 2015 will mark the first year in the battle of TV operating systems.

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Everyone has a new operating system

In the last seven or eight years, we have seen Apple and Google compete to control the mobile landscape with the iOS and Android operating systems, with Microsoft’s Windows on the sideline. Prior to this, each manufacturer used a relatively simple and closed operating system, but the iPhone came and redefined the basis of competition. As a consequence, almost every manufacturer of the old paradigm fell.

In the TV market we are rapidly approaching the end of the first phase. TV operating systems are inching closer to the "iPhone moment” where the OS becomes much more advanced and capable; where the basis of competition is redefined. Every TV manufacturer has now acknowledged that their first attempt was a failed experiment. In other sectors these experiments would have been carried out in-house before launching a consumer product, but the technology industry is different.

And so, 2015 will mark the first year in the next phase for TV operating systems. Every major TV manufacturer will switch to a new operating system after recognizing that the first attempt failed.

2015 will look like this:
  • Samsung --> Tizen
  • Sony --> Android TV
  • LG --> webOS (in 2014)
  • Panasonic --> Firefox OS
  • Philips --> Android TV
  • Sharp --> Android TV

    Alongside, we will see other attempts to control the TV screen through TV boxes such as Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Microsoft Xbox (Windows).

    Sony Android TV CES 2015

    The new platforms are not just more advanced that before, but also more open. Developers will have better tools for app development and it will be easier to release apps. Several platforms will also support gaming as the hardware is quickly becoming more powerful. The new platforms will communicate with your phone and tablet and be the hub for the connected home.

    Another driving factor will be streaming. TV content and movies are moving to the internet at a rapid pace. Just consider the fact that, in some regions, Netflix has risen to become one of the largest providers of TV two years after launch. Not only that; Netflix is also leading technological development in content with 4K streaming in 2014 and HDR (high dynamic range) in 2015. Traditional TV broadcast providers are still stuck in the past and will probably never catch up.

    Streaming will also globalize TV services. It will blur the country borders, even though local governments and industry dinosaurs try to prevent the inevitable. YouTube is just getting started on bringing the YouTube experience to TVs, and in 2015 it will be capable of streaming in 4K to TVs. In other words, streaming is one of the key elements of why TV operating systems will increase in importance over the next decade.

    Samsung Tizen

    Who will win?

    It is difficult to make predictions - especially about the future. But it is worth noting that Samsung has passed on Android TV from Google. This is noteworthy because Samsung is by far the largest Android partner in the mobile industry, and one of the few that can actually make money on it. LG is also one of the largest Android partners, and they too have met Google with a “no thank you”.

    Are Samsung and LG afraid to pass the torch on to Google? It is clear that they want to control the OS. Apple’s success in managing - and owning – almost every link of the vertical chain has surely made some of the other players reconsider their strategy. Vertical integration is working. Earlier this month, we heard that LG is developing a smart watch based on webOS. At CES, Samsung told us that Tizen will be the "operating system for everything", including your house. And just a few days ago, Samsung launched the first phone with Tizen.

    Google obviously has the same goal as it is trying to make Android the operating system for everything, but as several manufacturers in the mobile industry have learned, a partnership with the software giant shifts the balance of power – and money – to Google.

    Panasonic Firefox OS

    Panasonic stands alone in its partnership with Mozilla and the Firefox OS. And although Firefox OS shows promise it will be extremely difficult to gain momentum. Panasonic’s presence in the US TV market, where most developers are located, has taken a nosedive after the company said goodbye to plasma TVs.

    So who will win? Where do you spend your hard-earned money if you want to be able to download new apps even in 3-4 years from now? Will Samsung, LG or Panasonic capitulate in just a few years and jump on the Android TV bandwagon?

    All the balls are up in the air right now, and 2015 marks the beginning of the battle for the TV operating systems.

    LG webOS 2.0

    The ugly secret

    In the introduction, we said that many industries tend to keep the testing phase internal. Because, is that not what the first “Smart TVs” have felt like? A test phase?

    Consumers have involuntarily been the victims of the TV manufacturers’ stubbornness, based on the idea that just because you have succeeded in hardware you will also succeed in software. None of them collaborated. We have already seen many unfortunate examples of the consequences and in 2015 existing Smart TV owner will feel the carelessness. Every Smart TV from 2014 or earlier will be stuck on an old platform as TV manufacturers will move to Tizen, Firefox OS and Android TV in the 2015 TVs. The same things happened in 2014 when LG switched to webOS.

    But what happens if Apple joins the race in a big way?
    This is the ugly secret that TV manufacturers would rather not talk about. Everyone is promising that all the apps of the old platform will be updated for the new platform, but what about vice versa? No comment.

    Google does not exactly have a proud tradition either as it has failed to update millions, if not billions, of Android phones and tablet, but they are getting better. Google probably has the experience to make Android TV one of the most capable TV operating systems.

    But what happens if Apple joins the race in a big way? With a new “non-hobby” Apple TV box or a full-fledged Apple TV screen?

    In 2011, one of the internet pioneers, Marc Andreessen, said; "software is eating the world". So, will 2015 be the year when the basis of competition in the TV market switches from hardware to software? It certainly looks that way.

    Trends: curve, quantum dot, OLED, 3D & total confusion
    Trends: Ultra HD is about better pixels, not just more

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