The South Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung has said that it will release a range of “smart TVs” that will use its home-grown Tizen operating system instead of Android.
The company already uses Android on the majority of its smartphones, and even though Android can be used to create the user interface for televisions and set-top boxes (such as the Android-based IPTV box from Internet Service Provider TOT), they have opted to use Tizen instead on the new televisions.
Samsung aims to promote their own operating system and lower their reliance on Google, whose Internet search business makes money from advertising and therefore essentially makes Android a completely free operating system, as it tends to tie users into Google services such as Search and Mail. That’s all valuable data for Google in terms of selling its ad space.
What is a smart TV?
A smart TV is also sometimes called a “connected TV” and is essentially a TV that’s connected to the Internet. It also comes with built-in apps (and a browser) to play videos from sites like Netflix and YouTube. They also generally come with other apps such as Facebook, Skype, Twitter, and games such as Angry Birds, for instance.
So it sounds like a great idea, right? The TV would be able to connect to the Internet and play lots of videos all without a separate box and cables. It’s all integrated into the TV, saving some money and all the clutter and tangled mess behind the TV cabinet.
In reality, smart TVs are not that great. They have software made by their manufacturers (though some use Android) like Samsung and LG. And the software in the past has not been up to scratch, with a mess of confusing and difficult to use interfaces. Not to mention controlling them with a fiddly remote control and on-screen buttons. And over time, the smart TVs become dumber because they rarely receive updates, and new Internet video services and apps get launched that won’t work on the older sets…
Tizen-based smart TVs to be unveiled next week
Samsung has said that its connected “smart” televisions would run Tizen and that the first models will be unwrapped at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Building our Smart Platform around Tizen is a groundbreaking step towards a much more intelligent and integrated system. Tizen not only enriches the entertainment experience for our customers today, but unlocks great potential for the future in home entertainment – Lee Won-Jin, Samsung executive vice president
You may ask why Samsung wants to distance itself from Google and Android.
The problem Samsung has, is that with Android there is very little they can do to differentiate their devices from every other smartphone company. Besides its own TouchWiz interface (a kind of skin for Android), Samsung is finding it hard to stand out in a crowded smartphone market where nearly every Android phone looks the same and has nearly identical features.
The company would love to be able to use its own operating system, however that’s nigh-on impossible due to the rich ecosystem that Android has – it would be an impossible mission to replace Android with Tizen on their smartphones. Factors such as the number of apps in Google Play and the huge user base makes it unlikely that any smartphone company would choose not to use Android for a long time to come.
For reference, here’s a quick chart that shows the history of the Tizen OS.
In the consumer television industry, Samsung has more freedom to use its own operating system. By using Tizen, it’s hoped that more apps will be developed and a greater ecosystem of content and functionality will grow, helping the mobile phone OS to mature and getting it into the hands of more consumers. Whether it could ever be a real competitor to Android in the smartphone space is another matter. However, Samsung is already experimenting with Tizen in its other products such as the Galaxy Gear 2 smart watch, which was released in April 2014.
Does anyone care about smart TVs?
This is all well and good, but there’s also the small matter that nobody cares about smart televisions, even if they do come with web access, apps and games and dozens of other features.
The ‘smart’ part of most smart televisions is fairly useless, with clunky interfaces that are by no means easy to use. It’s a good excuse to jack the price up though, as margins are now so thin that the manufacturers are desperate to try and con us into paying more for things we don’t need – think of 3D televisions, curved TVs, and now the latest super high resolution standard called Ultra-HD TV (sometimes referred to as 4K TV, even though the picture sizes are in fact slightly different). One day, it will be great, but at the moment (especially in Thailand) there’s almost no Ultra-HD content available to watch. There are a few Internet TV services like Netflix which offer a tiny amount of Ultra-HD content, but there are no physical disks and no commercial broadcast transmissions yet.
When will the television manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, Sony et el realise that most people just want a television to be a dumb screen but with an amazing image quality? We will provide the ‘smart’ components ourselves such as set-top-boxes, games consoles and media streaming devices.
If you want to learn more about Tizen smart phones, check out www.tizenphones.com.