LAS VEGAS, CES 2012 – Like many TV makers at CES, Apple’s rumored entry into the HDTV market was the specter in the room at Samsung’s Monday afternoon press conference. However, unlike other makers who are flailing around blindly trying to add new bullet points to their spec sheets in the face of Apple entering the industry, Samsung’s next-gen Smart TV has a plan… and it’s just compelling enough that you wonder if Samsung has been tipped off on just what the iTV will entail, and is preparing in kind.
Here’s the primary dilemma of Apple entering the HDTV market. Apple’s whole business strategy essentially rests in selling customers a newer, shinier, better version of a device every two-three years. How do you apply that model to televisions, though? They are huge, expensive devices that most households don’t upgrade more than once a decade. So how do you get families to shell out a couple grand on a new 50-inch TV every couple of years?
Samsung’s got a compelling answer: you can’t. People don’t buy televisions that way. But what if, instead of selling people a brand new TV every two-three years, you make your money by selling them modular upgrades on a yearly basis, and a major new set only every five-ten years.
This is what Samsung is intending on doing with their so-called Smart Evolution initiative. Think of it as an expansion slot for your TV. Every year, you can give Samsung a couple hundred bucks, open a door on the back of your day, and slap a new module in that will give it improved video and processing power.
Samsung claims they are uniquely positioned to offer modular updates to their line of Smart TVs because they are the one TV maker who makes their own systems-on-chip, or SoCs. And that’s certainly true… for now. But if Apple gets in the game, they’re going to have the same advantage.
So imagine this. You spend $2,000 on an Apple iTV with a top-of-the-line A6 processor, but when Apple announces the iTV 2, it’s not an upgrade to the display: it’s an affordable upgrade to the iTV A6 module that gives any iTV out there the same core processing and video power as the latest model.
I think Samsung may just have nailed it on the nose. It’s not enough for Apple to just release a TV that cracks the control problem. Everyone at CES is showing off TVs with gesture control, voice control, internet connectivity and apps. No, what Apple has to figure out is a way to make people waiting in lines around the block for the next iTV every year. Maybe it’s as easy as again embracing a concept Apple has long since abandoned with their PCs and laptops: the self-upgradeable television.