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Sluggish TV development in danger of limiting sets' usefulness

As connected devices proliferate and second screens are the norm in an increasing number of households, TV set technology development is in danger of being left behind, research from NPD is proposing.

At the heart of a research note from NPD DisplaySearch analyst Paul Gray is the proposition that TV has remained largely isolated from the cycle of Moore's Law, where the number of transistors on a unit area of integrated circuit doubles every two years, and which has more or less governed the IT and communications industries. Instead, argues Gray, for several reasons, TV capability has been closely tied to broadcasting standards which until now has evolved at a much slower 'infrastructure' rate.

He explained: "A collision occurs when the lifetimes of these devices are considered: a TV typically lasts six to eight years in service, according to the NPD DisplaySearch TV Replacement Study. A mobile phone has a life of around two years. So consumers own phones on a single Moore's Law cycle, while TVs are expected to last for several cycles. The capabilities of TVs can soon be expected to lag far behind."

The danger is that even though software updating of TV technology is feasible, the gap in CPU power will limit its usefulness.

Gray adds that TV owners can be expected to perform mid-life updates to their sets to access attractive services by buying set-top boxes or unobtrusive MHL sticks which don't require an additional remote control and are fed power by the host TV. However, doing so, says the analyst, shows just how hard it is to modernise even recent hardware.

Looking forward, Gray postulates that set-makers face three alternatives: continue as before and hope that consumers don't become sensitised to the rapid obsolescence and growing uselessness of their connected TVs; give up and keep the processing outside the TV, which effectively becomes a monitor; rethink system partitioning and seek a way to maximise TV functionality yet isolate unstable and fast-evolving elements.

Concluding, Gray cautions: "Set-makers need to consider carefully whether the costs and support burdens of smart TVs will deliver the long-term added value to them (and their consumers). More open platforms may be an interesting alternative to fighting tablets and smartphones head-on."

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