CES 2013 preview: Tech companies don't have the living room figured out yet

CES 2013 preview: Tech companies don't have the living room figured out yet

Summary: Heading into CES, we know we'll see plenty of flashy and new TV displays. But then what are we going to do with them?

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We're just around the corner from the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, so there is no shortage of buzz about what we can expect to see at next week's expo in Las Vegas.

However, here's something I don't think we'll see -- at least not until 2014. That would be a better and more mainstream plan for the connected and smart entertainment hub.

CES 2013

This is a bit of a tangent from my colleague Andrew Nusca's earlier predictions for CES 2013.

I definitely agree that we'll see plenty of thinner, crisper, and overall more gorgeous displays trotted out over the next week. But I'm more concerned about what we could do with them after taking them out of the box beyond just connecting them to a cable box.

Overall, I just don't think anyone has truly figured the living room out yet.

At this point, I'd say the best we've got device-wise is either Roku or Apple TV.

Yet I would prefer to do without the extra hardware and spend my money on a single device that can do it all. The technology is available, but we need the platform and content to make throwing the cash down worth it.

Certainly, Internet-connected TVs have been in the spotlight for the last couple of years at CES, and there have been presentations of platforms to match from the likes of Sony, Samsung and Panasonic, among others.

Depending on where you spend your money for digital content, Apple, Google, Amazon and (arguably) Sony are all at the forefront of the platform side.

Outside of CES, we've seen attempts that are still working themselves out (see: Google TV), and the world will be waiting considerably longer to see if Apple ever follows up on those rumors of its own television set.

Nevertheless, there is still some sort of disconnect or gap in this market that can't quite be explained. Perhaps the problem is that there are just too many platform and hardware options for consumers in order to determine a clearer path to the living room.

From gaming consoles (i.e. Xbox, PlayStation 3) to the aforementioned set-top boxes to just connecting the latest-generation smartphones to your TV via HDMI, there are a plethora of choices for setting up an Internet-connected entertainment hub in the living room.

While having lots of choices could be great for consumers and their varying catalogs of devices, it can also be overwhelming when it comes to making a decision. That in turn makes it more difficult for the platform providers to figure out what consumers like best. It's just a messy web at this point that still needs sorting out.

Sometimes it's just easier when you only have to pick from a few brands and platforms -- much like what is becoming the case for mobile operating systems.

I would be delighted to be proven wrong, but I don't think we'll see a business model and connected platform that will resonate with the majority of consumers until at least next year.

Be sure to check back on ZDNet starting Sunday evening for continuous coverage as the world's largest technology trade show takes off.

Topics: CES, Hardware, Mobility, Tech Industry

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Talkback

29 comments
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  • Clueless

    Why would you want to purchase a TV with everything built in?
    The New Roku is USB. Most people have their TV's for 5-10 years. Do you really think that the tech inside is going to be able to handle 10 years of tech growth? You are proposing paying extra for something that is going to be antiquated in a year.
    USB or External boxes will continue to get better and cheaper every month.

    I don't think you've figured out technology let alone the living room.
    TechFan4Ever
    • Perfect.

      Thanks for your excellent post, that greatly shows the disconnect Rachel is referring to. The majority of consumers aren't truly tech geeks, and finding the way to bridge the gap so that the market can benefit is a large part of what tech executives are focused on these days. Until people stop demanding things must be done "their way", nobody is EVER going to get what they want, since resources are dedicated to meeting many WANTS, rather that many NEEDS, which means no single NEED actually gets the focus it truly deserves.

      Too many tech marketing departments forget to employ a psychologist, and instead depends on "fresh blood" for new ideas.
      Dave Rennie
      • Rachel Flip Flop

        The article makes no sense if you read it.
        First she says
        "Yet I would prefer to do without the extra hardware and spend my money on a single device that can do it all. The technology is available, but we need the platform and content to make throwing the cash down worth it."
        Then ends the article with
        " would be delighted to be proven wrong, but I don't think we'll see a business model and connected platform that will resonate with the majority of consumers until at least next year."
        Why would she want the tech built in and stagnate in a year when she herself says that it will change in a year.

        Smart TV's will be dumb in a year, yet external boxes, usb devises or whatever is released that we haven't thought of can continue to give value added to a TV.

        Dumb, poorly written article that really doesn't state anything.
        TechFan4Ever
        • Hmmm...no need to be rude. I believe Rachel is clearly saying

          that there is no go-to-market strategy for smart TVs or connected devices even though the technology is there. The hold-up is; easy, affordable, commercial-free, on demand access to all desired content (including live broadcasting) on whatever kind of networked device (TV or some kind of box.) This is the holy grail. Imagine if you could have access to ANY and all movie/video content and everything you can get from the broadcasters for say, $30 a month. Who wouldn't sign up? But as it stands if you wanted this today it would cost you an arm and a leg. Plus the management of it would be pretty disjointed.

          Don't get hung up on hardware, that part is already solved and it is the content that is the hitch. I believe this is what she is saying. Steve Jobs basically said the same thing and why any Smart TV or connected device is at this point is a hobby. Pretty great hobby though. I get a ton enjoyment from my jailbroken Apple TV.
          CowLauncher
  • All-in-one

    I've been using a Windows PC with Media Center for a long time. The interface is designed for the 10-ft range, it has Internet TV apps and a lot of content. I'm using it with a cable card, and though that isn't perfect, it gives me what I want, including recording 4 shows at the same time.
    lloverin
  • Poorly written indeed.

    Not only are the technological references and comparisons completely off, but the whole article is just grammatically and structurally poorly written.

    "Overall, I just don't think anyone has truly figured the living room out yet." - Overall, I don't think anyone has truly figured out the living room yet.

    "... lots of choices could be great for consumers and their varying catalogs of devices, it can also be overwhelming when it comes to making a decision. That in turn makes it more difficult for the platform providers to figure out what consumers like best" - How can consumers being overwhelmed be difficult for providers to figure out? Not to mention, what "platform" are we talking about here? The couch platform? The living room platform? The TV platform?

    Not to mention - "Perhaps the problem is that there are just too many platform and hardware options for consumers in order to determine a clearer path to the living room."
    Herb Taylor
    • Customers could be given one choice and still be just as clueless

      It's hilarious how people have choice and get perplexed so quickly, as if it's too much for their fragile little brains to digest...

      Like the song lyrics said,

      "freedom of choice is what you have,
      freedom from choice is what you want"...

      Give them the latter and they still won't get it... that's the one thing that even those songwriters hadn't fathomed...
      HypnoToad72
      • Its because Apple has cultivated a generation of iDiots

        Seriously. By making people not have to think about how a device works we are dumbing down people. So all of a sudden you get choice and LOOK OUT! ITS COMING TO GET YOU!! There is a reason why I call them iSheep.
        Kellic
        • Seriously! LOL

          It's the intelligence in the technology that frees us from having to think about how it works. Who wants to sit around thinking about how something works? Unless that is your job of course? Even then, those people welcome technology that frees them from time consuming, brain consuming tasks. People have more pressing things to think about.

          Get with the program Kellic!
          CowLauncher
  • The Living Room is already figured out.

    It all there already. Cable modem, home plug network, low power Media Center computer connected to 50" HDTV, Gyro RF keyboard and mouse, Skype wireless phone for video and voice communications (wireless webcam attached to side of HDTV), Hulu (and others) for television (which works fine if you're not a sports fan). All on an internet connection. Tracfone pay as you go for mobile and backup voice communications. No phone company bill. No cable television bill. Annual connection/media/communications costs circa $800 (after equipment costs), most of it for internet connection.

    The REAL need is a fix for the archaic U.S. internet network market place that is quickly falling behind the capacity and speed of devices being developed around the world. In the U.S. the internet is viewed as a "profit maker" and not "infrastructure". To maximize profits the telcos will minimize the "supply" as the "demand" increases due to new devices. And since telcos have literal monopolies in their respective geographical areas, we are all going to be paying dearly for internet access as we drop farther and farther behind the rest of the world in this regard.
    phillfri
    • Especially as US tax money and workers made it all

      We've trained our own H1B replacements, given tons of taxpayer-funded entitlements to companies that offshored jobs, created the internet (and marketplace) the world takes for granted, you name it...
      HypnoToad72
      • What the hell does that have to do with the story?

        You're drunk hypno. Go to bed and rant tomorrow.
        Kellic
    • You got that right, mostly...

      phillfri,
      Your comment is spot on but I would add the cable / internet providers to the telcos.

      The cable companies should be broken up just as AT&T was. There is no reason for us to be obligated to this cable co vs. that cable co just because of our street address. It is an IP address and a cable box people want and the last mile is meaningless. Competition MUST break the segmented monopoly (monopoly based on address).
      /dale.
      Dalesmedia
  • I wonder how much can be figured out

    Just seems like a sad day when one company owns the living room for a cohesive experience. Just as furniture is a hodgepodge of brands and different living room sets that are not the same brand as the paint and wall hangings. I just cant imagine we wont just keep buying new products and trying things that will do something well but not everything.

    I do agree there is a disconnect on the ease of use of consuming television on our own terms. Cable and satellite television generally have horrid interfaces and smart tv's get out of date without a well supported OS.
    wober2
    • Lousy Article

      "Overall, I just don't think anyone has truly figured the living room out yet."
      "there is still some sort of disconnect or gap in this market that can't quite be explained." Gosh Rachel, you figured this all out on your own?? You ask questions of the reader and offer some haphazard solutions, Apple TV and Roku. How long did it take to write this article? 3 minutes? I could have written this and I'm not even a writer.
      Maha888
  • Ignore the fact technology changes rabidly and rapidly,

    with the value of labor down and jobs ever so slow to trickle back, people are not as quick to keep the supply-side economy going. Or, to be frank, they can't. So, does our tax money go to prop up these companies or do we find better ways of doing things, noting that the latter option could involve a series of books as to the wide range of possibilities...
    HypnoToad72
  • Stuck with a technology that doesn't fit the bill

    I pay extra for the added bells and whistles only to find it doesn't work that great, or is underused.

    Now I'm stuck with having to put it where the TV is. At least with a Roku, Live TV or Apple TV, I can leave the big screen where it works, and move the $99 box where I want, attach it to what I want.
    NoMore MicrosoftEver
  • Please, the living room is figured out

    You pick your TV, you pick your audio, you pick the boxes you want to stream with, maybe throw in a HTPC and away you go. The room is figured out when YOU figure out what room you want.

    Oh I'm sorry. You weren't asking tech companies to figure out the living room. You were asking them to cater to stupid people who want limited features, a limited UI, and a walled garden like good iSheep. In short you want them to tell consumers this is how you do things. I don't think so.
    Kellic
  • You weren't looking hard at CES Preview

    Archos have come out with an apparently nifty android box (let's see if the quality lives up) that gives you a lot for little cash.

    It looks very interesting for the price (avail February for $130)

    http://www.archos.com/products/home/archos_tv_connect/index.html?country=us&lang=en
    Alan Smithie
  • HTPC

    I tried a "smart TV" only to find it slow and very limited in functionality. Then tried a WDTV Live which is only slightly better.
    At the moment, the only device that can meet all my viewing and recording needs is a HTPC. Amazingly, I can't just go and buy one. To obtain a decent HTPC, I will have to build one.
    ITenquirer