Samsung is Playing for Keeps: The importance of this first TV Apps developer day was evident by the large number of TV and video crews in attendance to document this major shift in Consumer Electronics. Starting with the professional MC, Samantha Harris, from “Entertainment Tonight” to the keynote by Pandora founder Tim Westergren through the “Fireside Chat” with Steve Wozniak, it was evident that this was not your typical nerd developer meet and greet.
Samsung does not seem to be content providing “the glass at the end of the pipe.” They want to fully participate in the development, acceptance and launching of new user features for their connected TVs and related products. And several notable members of the developer community were there to see for themselves. Among them were Accedo Broadband CEO Michael Lantz; Carrie Tice from UBISOFT; Chia Hwu of Ansca Mobile; Jacek Minko from start-up iLook; Kurt Hoppe of Catapult Partners; and of course, Adam Powers from Rovi – a distinguished partner for Samsung TV Apps.
$500k First Prize !! Samsung realizes they cannot just rely on their own stable of developers. They want to tap in to the creative genius of those geeks who may still be in college or working in their parent’s basement. The Samsung prize pool for best TV apps could also potentially draw skilled developers away from the overcrowded Apple Apps arena. $500,000 is a lot of money for any programmer. But, with the right mix of passion and skill they have a shot at making it big with the Samsung installed base of Connected TVs and BD Players.
Free and Paid Apps are Welcome: Free apps like Rovi, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Maps are great to be on par with the competition. However, with the potential of paid licenses, the CE manufacturer is now playing in the field that Apple has cultivated so well. One time licenses, ad revenue shares and ongoing subscription fees could represent a significant recurring revenue stream from loyal customers. No longer will CE manufacturers have to rely solely on the replacement market for the newer, faster and cheaper device. The connected platform is a real game changer.
Not the First: Of course, Samsung is entering an already crowded field. Aside from Apple, other major players like Sony, Vizio, Philips and LG all covet the same customers. And Nokia has their OVI store to link their mobile phones to connected devices. But Samsung, unlike Nokia controls a larger inventory of CE products to complement their own phone. Another Samsung advantage is in the person of Eva Bask-Karisson. Eva recently left Nokia and her excellent work on the OVI store in Finland to steer the Samsung Connected Community effort. Based on the technical developer presentations, it looks like the Samsung internal team is strong and deep.
Fully Functioning Platform: In the spirit of full disclosure, Samsung did give away 50 Blu-Ray players at the end of the day. And, as luck would have it, this author was one of the winners. (If you’ve seen the latest Best Buy-Samsung TV commercial you realize that they’re also giving away the same BD player with the purchase of a connected TV.) Having had a couple of days to explore the system, I can tell you that the only thing missing is a QWERTY KEYBOARD!!! Trying to type names of songs or groups into Pandora, searching Google Maps or looking for clips on YouTube, is a real PAIN using the virtual T9 keyboard. (Look at the Vizio slide-out remote for some hints.) Other than that serious short coming, the apps worked well and actually made the BD player useful without a disc loaded.
A Word from “The Woz”: With his custom Nixie tube watch on his wrist, Apple founder and “Dancing with the Stars” bon vivant, Steve Wozniak, held court on stage in front of a very partisan and enthusiastic crowd near the conclusion of the afternoon session. Some of the improvements Steve would like to see to improve his own TV experience included; Games to be played during a commercial break, VOD that is easy to buy and auto adjusts to the available bandwidth, Two-way remotes which would be upgraded via IR from the viewing device and most interesting – and greeted with lots of agreement from the audience – a viewer facing camera built into the TV. Aside from video calls, the camera could be used for gesture controls – another great improvement to the traditional remote.
The New Entertainment Center: Connected TVs, Hybrid Set Top Boxes and new BD players are really transforming the TV back into an “entertainment center.” The older generation can experience new functionality without much hassle and younger groups can link their mobile, gaming and iPad devices together to deploy their “friending” and texting tools that they can’t seem to live without.
Keep Pushing Forward
[Please contact Jeff directly regarding consulting or full time positions in the Digital TV and the Connected Home marketplace]