What’s wrong with this scene: a person gets home from work, and rather than turn on his 46-inch TV to watch video, he finds himself instead watching the palm-sized screen on his smart phone.
That’s the scenario New York Times technology writer Nick Bilton described in a recent article in the newspaper’s Bits section. Why? Because turning on his television, receiver and set-top-box is just waaay too hard and time consuming for him.
His point I think was that iPods and iPads offer easy short-cuts to an online entertainment world, but TVs with their tricky big screens only offer more confusion and time spent staring at media guides.
Well, he’s right on a few things. Some products could use a lot of improvement in their onscreen presentation—he could try a TiVo, but he doesn’t want cable and complains that a TiVo would just give him more buttons to worry about.
The gist of the article was to berate TV makers for not making better online experiences. I guess he didn’t go to CES this year. The biggest theme among all TV makers for 2012 was smart TV. Both Samsung and LG showed voice-controlled features. Samsung even added gesture control. All the major TV makers are competing for the hottest online experience with expanded app stores and more personalization. Panasonic has so many fitness apps that I feel myself getting toned just looking at the box.
Like most people I enjoy social media, news updates and watching cats do stupid things on YouTube, but when I want to watch a TV program such as Walking Dead or a movie in its most pristine Blu-ray excellence, I use a television—a big one (sometimes I use a projector with a really big screen). I also use speakers—big ones. If you have a living room use the whole room. Don’t consume your media on a product meant for commuting on a subway.
I wont even bother talking about universal remotes as solutions to his button problems (there are apps for that) because I already know New York Times writers don’t know how to use them.
Bilton says the winner of the TV wars won’t be won by “the size of the screen or how thin it is hanging on the wall.” Well, actually it will, but I’d add picture quality to that. The number one factor in most people’s TV buying decisions is picture quality. Online features, while nice, aren’t at the top of the list. The best-looking displays on the market are on televisions—big ones.
While I agree with Bilton that much in the TV product world could be better, and that the prospect of an Apple-made TV is interesting, claiming that his components are too hard to use so instead he just watches Netflix on a phone—that’s just posturing. My kids know how to turn on the TV, find their recorded shows, access our Netflix account, play their video games and operate the music server. It’s not too tough for them, and they’re in middle school.
I’d love to see TVs work more intuitively, include more features, maybe better interfaces, but for a person to ignore the superior experience sitting right in front of him because it doesn’t have a touchscreen… I don’t get it.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.