At IFA 2013, we noticed that Sony was very focused on 4K TVs. This was no surprise–after all, 4K is the latest, greatest display technology. But at the same time we noticed that Sony was stepping back from their push for smart TVs. They were developing a more streamlined set of products, without all the bells and whistles of feature-heavy, internet-ready TVs.
We saw this as Sony returning to its roots: a quest to be the best TV manufacturer, period. And we’re not surprised to see them turning away from Smart TVs. Why? We think there are a few reasons:
- The refresh cycle of TV purchase means that cutting-edge Smart TVs end up looking “dumb” pretty quickly.
- At the same time, there are more small, easily-updated devices for streaming and other features.
- Set top boxes and MHL/HDMI sticks (think Chromecast and Roku) are cheap and simple, making your TV smart without investment in a display that will be out of date in a couple years.
At this year’s Mobile World Congress there was more evidence that the days of smart TVs may be numbered. The sticks are everywhere. They’re made even more useful by 4G LTE capability. All of the “smarts” built into last year’s TVs look and feel old already. And what about Sony? Again, they’re sticking to their expertise. Their strong showing of 4K TVs continues, and they’re introducing smart phones that can encode 4K to provide content for these new displays. (Again, the focus is on providing the best displays complemented with add-on technology.)
Will Sony’s bold move lead to a positive outcome? We think so; and we think it’s an indication of where the TV industry is headed overall. The Smart TV might be going extinct.