Samsung has unveiled a new TV at CES 2012 in Las Vagas that can receive a hardware upgrade every year in order to keep it current and add new features.
The Samsung ES8000 will feature an expansion slot that allows new hardware to be fitted to the TV, technology the company is calling 'smart evolution capability.'
I can tell you one thing right now - I won't be buying one.
Now don't get me wrong, the idea of an upgradable TV doesn't sound all that crazy. In fact, it's an interesting way to keep an expensive bit of kit that people keep for years (usually much longer than a computer or cellphone) updated.
But I'm still not buying.
First off, the computer market has shown that, on the whole, consumers aren't interested in upgrades. The only think keeping the PC upgrades industry afloat is gamers and hardcore enthusiasts. Luckily there are quite a lot of them. How many consumers are going to want to upgrade their TV? Not many I'm willing bet.
Then there's the whole issue of commitment. Specifically, Samsung's commitment. If I buy this TV, am I guaranteed an upgrade module down the line? If so, how many? See, my fear here is that if these TVs don't sell well (and my feeling is that they won't), then we can kiss goodbye any ideas on seeing an upgrade module. If sales of the TV are disappointing, then sales of the upgrade module are likely to be crushingly disappointing.
I might feel better if Samsung would license the upgrade module technology as that would give smaller companies an option to support people who'd bought one of these sets. I really don't see that happening thought.
There's another issue bothering me about all this 'future-proof' upgradable TV thing, and it's this. What exactly are these hardware upgrades going to entail? Will it be little more than a CPU/RAM upgrade so the TV can run the latest firmware (if so, that's really unsexy) or will be new features? My bet is the former, since catering for the latter is not easy from a technical standpoint.
Which leads me to my final problem with upgradable TVs ... if these upgrade modules exists so that the TV's hardware can be bumped up to run whatever firmware release comes from Samsung, what happens if you don't buy the module? Are you stuck with a web-connected system with no hopes of an upgrade a year down the line?
I see what Samsung are trying to do here, but to me it seems gimmicky. It's like those big magnifying lenses you can put in front of the TV to make the screen bigger or, if you're older, that colored film that was sold in the back pages of comic books that promised to turn a black and white set into color (and no, I'm not old enough to remember that!). In theory, the idea of an upgradable TV makes sense (like an upgradable computer or upgradable car), but in reality the majority of consumers don't want upgradability, and those that do are probably switched on enough to realize that this idea won't amount to anything.