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The rise of the smart, connected TV

46% of TVs to ship with internet connection in 2013

According to new forecasts from ABI Research, the estimated 19 percent of flat-panel TVs shipping with Ethernet in 2010 will grow to 46 percent in 2013, and connectivity is expected to become a mainstream feature.

As demand for connected devices expands, Internet-connected TVs form a category poised for growth and evolution.

“TV makers no longer want to build ‘dumb screens,’” says industry analyst Michael Inouye. “Rather than simply selling boxes, TV makers themselves could try to secure part of the revenue generated by ads their devices present.”

According to Inouye, “New features will include media guides/browsing, Web browsing, and more tightly integrated social and information-based datasets.”

New opportunities for advertising and cross-marketing will flow from these developments too, as well as new roles for the television manufacturers.

TV makers won’t be providing all that content themselves, of course.

Netflix, for instance, has an application available for use with connected TVs. The tight integration of software and hardware raises difficulties, however, because each manufacturer’s combination of hardware and operating system works in different ways, so applications must be customized for each brand of television.

That has discouraged some app developers, but others are pushing ahead.

Then there’s networking: Wi-Fi has made some early headway, but wired formats are more robust, especially for HD content. G.hn, HomePNA, MoCA, and Powerline are all contenders in the long term, perhaps displacing the currently most robust solution, Ethernet.

There are some early efforts to standardize all this multiplicity: Vudu streams everything from the Cloud. An Android OS would help compatibility. But such initiatives will take time to mature.

Inouye concludes, “This market is very fluid and uncertain, and with so many parties vying for a piece of the action, that fluidity may persist for years.”

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