What Is and Isn’t a Smart TV


google tv 1 search interface

It seems Intel has coined a new descriptor for connected home devices that defines a new category within the space. Personally, I like the term “Smart TV.” Trouble is many have started grouping unintended devices and platforms as part of the mix when reporting on Smart TVs. According to Intel, a Smart TV is able to:

  • Search online and personal content as well as broadcast programming all from the same TV interface
  • Access downloadable applications
  • Connect to social networks while watching favorite programs or movies
  • Control TV with a unique new remote control or voice commands
  • Access an infinite amount of entertainment possibilities

google tv presentation credit magerleagues

In addition, Intel states:

  • It’s integrated, so everything important to the consumer is connected and searchable on a single screen, from billions of hours of video to personal content
  • It’s interactive, complementing broadcast programming with the ability to instantly find and watch television shows and movies, download Internet applications, and easily surf between channels and Web sites for a completely new way of using television, instead of just watching it

So, as you can see, any old network media streamer connected to your TV doesn’t count as a Smart TV device — i.e. Roku Player, Apple TV, Boxee Box, etc. The same would also apply to a TV that includes a separate app store or an infotainment interface that may have been ported for use on a TV, like Viewsonic’s Boxee-enabled HDTV shown at CES 2011 (note I miscategorized it as a Smart TV before I came to grips with what the term actually meant). I know supporters of these popular platforms will say I’m wrong, but according to Intel’s vision of what a Smart TV is… I’m right. It probably doesn’t help that Intel includes companion boxes, Blu-ray players, and set-top boxes, in addition to fully integrated HDTV sets. But, when you look at a product like Sony’s Internet TV Blu-ray Player powered by Google TV or Cisco’s Videoscape set-top box (does not use Intel’s chips) for cable TV providers, it all begins to make sense.

Bottom line: Smart TV’s biggest differentiator over standard Connected TV offerings is its ability to enhance TV viewing with real-time data, related content, and interactivity from the Web. If it can’t do that, then it’s not a Smart TV.

UPDATE: Samsung explains what’s a Smart  TV to them and how they differ from Connected TVs

cisco videoscape demo ces 2011




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Filed in: Industry Buzz, Software, Streaming Media Devices


  • http://twitter.com/michaelwolf Michael Wolf

    I think Intel’s going to define it the way that best fits their agenda as a chip manufacturer. At the basis of the definition should be what differentiating technology capabilities should it have. I don’t think something like “connection to social networks” is required.

    I do think Smart TV is a good definition for those platform integrated into TVs, but we need a broader term to encompass both TV-integrated as well as discrete boxes that do largely the same thing (i.e. Google TV on Logitech, Boxee, etc). They’re competitive with one another, certainly, so it’d be good to start talking about as a whole.

  • http://twitter.com/michaelwolf Michael Wolf

    I’m still unclear on why you believe a TV OEM’s platform is the only one that should be Smart TV. Clearly, a Sony TV with Google TV as the main software framework is going to be Smart TV, even if Sony does nothing but some UI tweaks.

    Also, I think connected home entertainment devices is an umbrella term that would include anything, including a Sonos music streamer to any Media adapter, both of which clearly aren’t Smart TV competitors. I think there should be a term for all TV-centric smart-application and interactivity platforms.

  • http://twitter.com/agrundner Alexander Grundner

    Then create a term to satisfy your need instead of redefining one that already has been stated and put forth. In the end it’s your choice how you wish to cover the new Smart TV segment. On this site, I’ll be using Intel’s definition as my guide.

  • http://twitter.com/agrundner Alexander Grundner

    The industry has been using “connected home entertainment devices” for a while now, why not stick with that for an all encompassing label? I’m open to other ideas that target only TV networked devices with 3rd party app support. The way Intel defines a Smart TV should not be altered to include less advanced / integrated offerings that can’t tie live / on-demand / DVR’d TV content with the Web in a unified interface — 3rd party app support is just one piece of the Smart TV puzzle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wesley.mullings Wesley Keith Mullings

    # Control TV with a unique new remote control or voice commands
    # Access an infinite amount of entertainment possibilities

    Intel may be cutting off their own nose to spite their face. These two descriptors will NOT be in every device Intel will produce and call a “Smart TV”. First, the description of the remote control has NOTHING to do with the functionality of the device. As we have already seen, HTPCs and set-top boxes do not sport any voice command capabilities as a selling point. The function is sparse and doesn’t show up in ANY series of devices at that. An “infinite amount of entertainment possibilities” is too vague. It could mean anything. I believe it’s a grab to distinguish it’s own devices in the face of upcoming (and better) competition. A sad display.

  • http://twitter.com/michaelwolf Michael Wolf

    Cool. Alexander, as you know, I actually do enjoy these debates, despite my tone. I think the definition conversation is important, and its great to be covering technology that isn’t yet entirely defined. That’s what I’ve always especially enjoyed as an analyst, tell the truth. Thanks for the lively conversation.

  • http://twitter.com/teknerve TekNerve!

    I give Samsung credit for pushing ‘Smart TV’ as a name for Internet connected televisions capable of running local applications. http://splatinteractive.tv/2011/01/giving-it-a-name-smart-tv/

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5CZOCS6DTCC3HDZV3LBKLHCOGA Lostindemocracy

    Samsung needs a true web browser, coneccting only to sites of their choice is not democratic nor has the freedom that a Pc web browser gives us. “Google tv stills ahead of the game ….the only problem is that monopoly is exercise by Sony” We need a true webbrowser on our dvd players or TV’s , not the hanky panky  internet capable, internet connected, which comes down to be  wi fi.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5CZOCS6DTCC3HDZV3LBKLHCOGA Lostindemocracy

    Samsung needs a true web browser, coneccting only to sites of their choice is not democratic nor has the freedom that a Pc web browser gives us. “Google tv stills ahead of the game ….the only problem is that monopoly is exercise by Sony”
    We need a true webbrowser on our dvd players or TV’s , not the hanky
    panky  internet capable, internet connected, which comes down to be  wi
    fi.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5CZOCS6DTCC3HDZV3LBKLHCOGA Lostindemocracy

    The fact is a Pc web browser will be the ultimate factor to a smart tv feature on a dvd tuner, player or tv, all this redderic about apps and streaming is old and only a tool looking into our wallets.