As market competition intensifies over the next few years, the only way for TV vendors to differentiate themselves will be through multiple-platform connectivity, according to a new report from Gartner Group.
Paul O'Donovan, principal research analyst at Gartner, said that nearly 85 per cent of all flat-panel TVs made in 2016 will be so-called 'smart' TVs, with the market expanding from 69 million units in 2012 to 198 million by 2016 – but the mere fact they are 'smart' won't be enough to spur demand.
"In the end, the choice may be all about the extra content that one TV brand offers over another. Consumers will be asking questions such as: 'Which internet TV services can the TV access? Are these the sites I think are valuable? Can I use my smartphone or tablet with this TV?'" he said.
"It is critical for the TV industry during this global economic downturn and decline in consumer confidence to sustain sales and maintain or grow market share – especially in emerging markets."
O'Donovan went on to explain that this task is clearly made harder when demand is shrinking, and therefore additional functionality must become the differentiator. That's as long as price is already competitive and all other variables are equal between brands.
Gartner's report, 'Market Trends: Smart TVs Are the Focus of the TV Market, Worldwide, 2012', sees unit production of smart TVs next year hitting around 108 million.
Typically, a smart TV can search the web for video content and play it back. It doesn't necessarily come with a browser, but there will be an ability to add software from an app store. Interactive capability can be incorporated as well as the ability to connect to various other consumer devices such as smartphones, media tablets and PCs, according to Gartner.
Pay TV channels will continue to carry much premium content that cannot be easily sourced online – so it is the broadband connection that defines a smart TV.
"With connectivity to smartphones and tablets comes the ability to pull content from the internet on one device and push that content to the TV. For those TV manufacturers that also make smartphones and tablets, the marketing advantage of the smart TV makes educating the consumer a lot easier," O'Donovan added.
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