I Just Want A Dumb TV

Hey, so remember when building VCRs into TVs seemed like a good idea? And then how it turned out that is wasn't? Yeah, connected TVs are basically just like that.

A TV is a huge purchase. People spend thousands of dollars on an item that they'll keep for years, watch for hours a day, and display prominently in their homes, almost like a piece of furniture. It's less like buying a piece of electronics, and more like buying a car.

It's hard to find a TV on the CES show floor that doesn't have apps, or widgets, or some kind of software layer between the viewer and the content. And to be fair, there are plenty of good ideas on display here: Netflix, Hulu and YouTube streaming is something people will actually use, as is local network playback. And sure, weather widgets! Why the hell not.

But here's the problem: All that stuff is ephemeral, and mostly disposable. The little computers inhabiting new TVs live in a part of the tech world that moves at a different speed, where hardware and software are born and die in the span of a couple of years. Think of it this way: The HDTV you bought four years ago probably still looks great. The smartphone you bought four years ago lives in a landfill, next to the netbook you bought in 2008.

I don't mean to imply that connected TVs don't have value, or won't be a fulfilling purchase in the near term—they do, and they probably will be! But paying extra for a TV with a shitty App Store that probably won't exist in two years just feels silly. You'll still be using that TV in a few years, but a significant chunk of it—a chunk that you paid a premium for—will likely have died, or fallen into utter disuse.

So, here's the idea: Just buy dumb TVs. Buy TVs with perfect pictures, nice speakers and and attractive finish. Let set top boxes or Blu-ray players or Apple TVs take care of all the amazing connectivity and content afforded to us by today's best internet TVs. Spend money on what you know you'll still want in a few years—a good screen—and let your A/V cabinet host the changing cast of disposable accessories. Besides, interface like Apple TV's or Boxee's are miles better than the clumsy, underdesigned connected TV interfaces turned out by companies like LG and Samsung.

And TV manufacturers: Don't just make more dumb TVs. Make them dumber.


Comments

    Yes!

    This article is TOTALLY on the money.

    I don't want a TV which does half-assed connectivity through a half-assed TV manufacturer's idea of a UI.

    I just want a great big monitor which I can plug into my ever-evolving software-updatable home network set top box.

    Well written, Gizmondo. I hope the manufacturers take heed.

    Couldn't agree more, good work.

    Very good argument. Kind of like the arguments about convergence. Component systems still have great benefits, like being able to replace or upgrade individual components without replacing everything. Although a big argument for convergence of all in one systems is economy, over a longer period it becomes less economical, like when having to replace a DVD player or upgrade to Blueray. Hence I still prefer component systems and hope they will always be available.

    If I purchase a TV like I did in the last 6 months, it's based on things like DLNA compatibility, maybe basic USB playback for Divx AVIs. Anything else is just silly, like the Samsung widgets. Youtube is OK, but to cumbersome, and the only other widget is for the weather which I just get on my phone anyway.

    I can see wiggle room for glasses-less 3D, MAYBE, but I want the HTPC and my games consoles to cover the rest. They do it better.

    Well said. I remeber buying my Plasma and having options for this and that and just went with the best I could afford without the bling. I still have that plasma 4 years later and I have been through 2 receivers, bought top notch speakers, upgraded from IQ1 to IQ2 and added a home cinema PC and other gadgets. Problem is the average consumer likes the bling and they get conned into paying a premium for it.

    I agree 100%. I wonder how much the push for connected TVs is simply a way to decrease their useful life to sell more product.

    I don't think they will be successful. Television is an intimate medium. We are inviting the content into our homes. Most people do not want "apps, or widgets, or some kind of software layer between the viewer and the content."

    I believe that new technology will enhance and improve the television experience, but in a behind-the-scenes and unobtrusive way. PVR software and automatic recording can make it so there is "always something good on" without adding distractions to the TV screen, or changing the electronics of the set.

    Marc Feldman
    Director and Founder
    http://openivo.blogspot.com

    The one thing I do wish they would change is to do away with the old line-of-sight infrared remote and go wireless. Then we could start using phone apps to control them rather than the current cludges we have to use.

      I can use my Samsung Galaxy S as a remote for my Samsunng Plasma through wifi but it's very rare I bother unless the remote is on the other couch & I'm feeling particularly lazy. It does mean I can turen the TV off or adjust the volume etc from any where in the house though.

      Most TVs these days have apps that allow for this anyway (at least at my Bravia does). And you know what? They are actually not very practical or good to use IME because they lack the most useful feature that the remote control has - namely the tactile feel of the buttons.

      I still use the old "dumb" remote simply because it is quicker and easier to press the buttons via muscle memory in a darkened room than unlocking my phone, looking at the screen, hoping to press the right button and not accidentally hit one of the other ones because a smartphone's screen is so sensitive, etc. You get the gist. I have also extensively tried Unified Remote for a long time with my media and desktop PCs and still went with a nice small wireless keyboard for the same reasons.

    Agreed. How dumb will 3d TV's look like in 5 years? Pretty much like having a waterbed in the lounge I would imagine.

    Agreed. Old saying - Jack of all trades, Master of none. MFCs aren't much better. I upgrade the printer often but use a 6 year old scanner. Why combine them?

    If there were two tvs side by side and they were identical in every way except all of this token connected crap, i would take the one without it no contest. Even if it was only marginally cheaper.

    well written and i agree with you 100%.
    I bought a 32" LCD 4 years ago and its still great for me. but it only had analog tuning. now that analog tv is being switched off I have a digital tuner and ive not tuned the analog tuner since moving twice.

    I want to buy a large monitor and have component items that plug into the screen. I know the world will change and how we TV in the future will change again. Xbox now can get foxtel, I get music via iTunes and to the amp via airtunes. Movies via the apple TV and other TV on demand via the ABC iView.

    we are products of our time and when a screen has a job to do i dont want it being the PVR no matter how useful it is. lets face it the Tivo [or other PVR with web connectivity] have more tricks than the LG tv my parents have.

    I cant get into having a large screen when i dont need it.
    I want my home theatre in boxes not just one box.

    I too approve of future-proofed TVs where you don't pay for crap that ages at a different rate to the actual screen.

    Maybe I'm just a cynic, but it seems TV companies would prefer if we bought a new one every couple of years, let's face it, there's more money in it for them. Making TVs 'smarter' may be seen as a way of doing this. Just a thought.

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