Smart TVs, a fast 2012 recap

I’ve recently read a report about gaming and TVs that adds some details to a list of notes/considerations I would write (also to remind them to myself). This is a recap of the past year, as you know there’re lot of news from the 2013 edition of the CES.

Two obviously (but useful to keep in mind) nuts:
– the worldwide market for games on connected TV devices to reach $1.6 billion by 2016 (1 billion active connected TV devices in the market worldwide, a majority of which will be exposed to games content)
– platform fragmentation is predicted to increase in the medium term

(editor’s note: the “smart TV” and “connected TV” terms mean the same thing: a TV device with internet connections and a app store)

The world is moving very fast technology after technology and if we take a look at what happens early with the mobile devices we could assert that the companies that provide deployment solutions to the market fragmentation are well positioned to cement their role for the next years.
That is the reason why moreless every manufacturer is moving without pace to find a solution in the short terms (and the result is still fragmentation) and all the TV manufacturer business models are flipping from a product to a service-oriented structure.

Let’s take a look at the actual players (forgetting their relevance for a while):
– standard OEM stores (Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Vizio, Lenovo, Western Digital, Roku, Boxee, Acer, Intel, Vestel)
– third-party stores (Opera, Yahoo)
– operator stores (BT Vision, Free, Shanghai Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Canal Digital, Boxer TV-Access)
– Google that has an OS and a store too (GoogleTV)
– third-party games-specific stores/portals: PlayJam, Appside, Transgaming
– third-party games streaming networks/platforms: OnLive, Gaikai, Playcast
And we’re keeping out from the list Ouya and the more recent Game Stick… or Valve/Steam… and those will be joined by further entrants in the coming months (EA with its Origin platform?).
Apple is an obvious omission for now, but when they plays their cards all could change!

Speaking about the framewors/programming launguages that we could use to develop games on every platform:
– Samsung supports Java, HTML and Adobe AIR and has a partnership with Gaikai
– LG supports HTML, C++, Unity and has a partnership with Gaikai
– Google TV supports Java, HTML, Adobe AIR, Unity and every Android compatible framework
– SmartTV Alliance (LG, Sharp, Philips) supports HTML
– NetTV (Sharp, Philips) supports HTML
– Roku supports C++ and Unity
– PlayJam supports Adobe AIR, HTML and C++ through Marmalade
– TV App Engine supports HTML and converts apps into native ones
– Marmalade supports C/C++ and integrates the PlayJam APIs
– Yahoo Connected TV supports HTML
– Opera TV supports HTML
– Sony acquired Gaikai
– Vizio has a partnership with OnLive
– TiVo (a Virgin Media box) support Adobe AIR

HTML seems to be again the best solution due to the recent moods but I’m speaking directly with some of the names mentioned above because they’ve to explain me/us a thing: are they forgetting the so called casual games? (I mean every game from Tetris to Farmville, avoiding high 3D games)
Why I’m asking them that:
– as everyone involved into the gaming industries we know that HTML is not suitable for games today. I’m sure It will but it isn’t today
– HTML doesn’t reach good performances on mobile devices, you can imagine on TVs…
– In recent times Facebook has retreated from its HTML5 ambition on smartphones admitting that neither the technology nor industry is ready for full HTML5 deployment of applications
– (this is the best part) fragmentation: Samsung ‘Smart TVs’ and LG ‘NetCast’ each use proprietary browsers (with the LG browser based on WebKit), ‘Google TV’ devices use a customised version of Google Chrome, Panasonic ‘Viera Connect’ uses a NetFront browser, Sharp and Toshiba each use different versions of Espial browsers, and Sony and Philips each use different versions of Opera browsers
– C++ and Unity open huge possibilities for the developers… but with lot of difficulties due to the programming language (compared to Javascript or Actionscript) and lot of knowledge to own (about 3D)

It seems a bit strange, it seems that the manufacturers are concentrated into allowing the creation of content/video delivery apps and not on games that are by tradition the most attractive (and lucrative) ones. Also LG that it was the first supporting AIR 3.0 is abandoning it starting the creation of a close and private platform…

Haven’t they learnt anything from the mobile market? Most of the TV manufacturers will fail, look at the mobile manufacturers: all of them have failed, some of them have survived just for the Android adoption… look at what RIM is doing for the developers, they’re supporting moreless all the existing programming languages and platforms so they could be attractive.
We need standards, not fragmentation. We need the GoogleTV widely adopted, we need a real SmartTV Alliace with good solutions for gaming, we need PlayJam (that’s the only one that is convincing me with its strategy).

More: OEM games and application stores are obviously restrictive because they are only relevant to the specific OEM devices, so with the proliferation of connected TV devices in the market, the value of the third-party games store brought together by content aggregators (such as PlayJam) is becoming more apparent. We expect this value proposition to remain strong in the short and medium term as connected TV devices and their respective platforms multiply.

We’re speaking about games so we could spend some words about the most important bottleneck of the actual TVs: the remotes.
Modern remote controls need to designed with increasing flexibility they have to serve lot of services at once:
– linear television
– on-demand services
– networked videos
– downloadable social applications
– games!
Have you understood the reason why actual remotes have broadly fallen?

I know you want to ask me “Why are you shooting so many information at once without a clear thread? What do you want to say?”
This post is a fast reminder of the TVs market state before of the 2013 edition of CES where all writen above won’t probably make sense, but we’ll be able to track the evolution of the market 🙂

10 thoughts on “Smart TVs, a fast 2012 recap

  1. Hello,

    you are writing “Also LG that it was the first supporting AIR 3.0 is abandoning it starting the creation of a close and private platform”. Would be great if you could provide a link with an official statement about the abandoning of Air?

    In the latest SDK they still mentioning Flash…

    Do you have more information about the “close and private platform”?

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Wolfgang
      Search into the dev lounge forum (general discussion > Can’t run flash applications).
      I know that official statements are still missing but I also emailed directly the LG team and they confirmed: AIR apps won’t be accepted during this year, the already on the store ones will be supported untill 1st January 2014. The Flash support is going to be dropped too.

      I also asked more info about the private platform but they haven’t more details today.

      Thank you

  2. Hi Stefano,
    I have read some articles about smart TVs and the Smart TV Alliance and somehow I must come to the conclusion, that neither Adobe Air nor Flash are platforms a developer should choose for smart TV app development.

    It seems that all of the major TV manufacturers are shifting to HTML5 as platform for app development for their smart TVs.

    What is your oppinion about that trend? Have you heard anything lately from Adobe regarding Air/Flash for smart TVs?


    • Hi Wolfgang
      I discovered that AIR 3.0 won’t see the lights on other smarttvs…

      HTML is today the best option if you want to create tv apps but the performances are low and obviously you can forget about the game development…

      My opinion is that the tv market is going to change at a low rate, without revolutions nor serious evolutions… just a very very slow evolution but without anyone that will reinvent the market, the big manufacturers are blind and they’re driven just from money, not from visions (like Jobs/Apple did with mobile).

      Small players (Roku, Ouya, PlayJam) will become more serious in the next years and for them we can use the technology that we prefere, so I’m not so sad… the market need to be reinvented, it’s up to us how doing it.

      Waiting for Apple…

  3. Hi Stefano,

    I’ve just received an email from LG in which they are writing: “we probably do not support AIR and Flash from next year”.
    Maybe they still can be convinced to keep Adobe Air if the comminuty shows more interest.

    Regarding “…starting the creation of a close and private platform…”
    This platform is called NetCast and exists since 2011. The SDK 3.0 will be released soon and is ment as additional platform and not to replace others.


    • NetCast is available to everyone but it’s not widely adopted like AIR 😉

      BTW: continue to email them like I’m doing to fully understand what they want to do for game devs 😉

      Thank you for commenting and partecipating into the discussion 🙂

    • Yes it is…
      And if someone still has doubts: LG Smart TV SDK V3.0.0 page –> ** LG Smart TV SDK V3.0 does not support Flash and AIR.

  4. Pingback: Samsung Smart TV Development With HaXe at Jozef Chúťka's blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *