Internet TV, A Step Backward for Innovation (My Thoughts from the International CES Debut)

Sharp 4K TV or Ultra HDTV

(Credit: Engadget)

I am all for new ideas that have never been published before. After all, if innovation were based on many of the things we already have and cherish, where would the risk and sacrifice come from to create new products of which the world has never seen? I remember a time growing up when televisions were the hottest tech gadget around – bigger than smartphones and tablets. Back then, smartphones were large, hunky cell phones whose numbers had a backend light when you pressed them. Often, phones were so large that you felt as though your ear was swallowed whole when you made a phone call. That was then; smartphones have changed the industry in a few years, and we are now on the verge of making technology even more mobile and convenient than ever before.

I have been reading for some time about “the Internet of Things,” the supposed theme of this year’s International CES (Consumer Electronics Show). This year’s theme is supposed to involve discussions and presentations regarding how everything has the potential to connect to the Internet, from your bed to your shower, your kitchen and bathroom to your air conditioner, your thermostat to your vehicle, and so on. Home automation is an area in which many of the tech giants (Apple, Google, and Microsoft, to name a few) are heavily invested. Microsoft just won a company called id8, a company that Apple was interested in as an acquisition. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft does with its new home automation division.

Home automation, however, has a place; its purpose is to ensure that we are safe from possible fires if heat or fireplaces are left unattended, that we keep our alarm systems on if there is a great chance that our homes could be robbed, and that we do not cook the food until our kitchens are set on fire (since our smartphones can alert us that the food is ready). Home safety and home automation are best friends. Although I understand the technology of Internet TV, I’m just not sure that it has a place in the current tech scene, neither do I believe it fills a void or need for the consumer public.

Why do I feel this way? I have the conviction I do about Internet TV because of a few things. First, Internet TV is not a new innovation. Modern televisions have been around for the last twenty years, and the Internet has been around for the last thirty years. While it has occupied more of a central role in the lives of individuals within the last decade or so, it was not born within the last decade, but rather, in 1983 (nineteen months before my own birth). Secondly, the idea of merging the Internet with existing technology is not new. Home automation, the bare concept, is not new. Computers have used the Internet for things such as shopping, watching the local news station, and reading books for the last few years. It is only now that home designers and even automakers have started investing in this field. Yet and still, the Internet has always been a part of smartphones (though Internet was not as big a concept as it is now when cell phones were first invented). Tech manufacturers such as Panasonic and Sharp are selling Internet TVs today as though it is something new – when, in reality, it is not. It is nothing more than combining television and Internet with 4K (or Ultra HD) technology. When I was growing up, televisions were a necessity for those in the home to have some sort of connection with the world outside of the home; today, the computer, laptop, and smartphone have all replaced the need for televisions of any sort.

Consumers will always need smartphones and tablets on the go; as for Internet TV, however, it is a luxury that most humans worldwide need not afford. There is a reason why neither Apple nor Google make as much money from its Internet TVs as it does from smartphones and tablets. If Internet TVs will cost thousands of dollars, consumers need to know that they are more than just extravagant luxuries. Unfortunately, this did not happen at International CES.