Parks Associates Blog

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Samsung seeks to open TV apps to third-party developers

Samsung held its first developer conference yesterday called Free the TV Challenge. The company would like to cultivate an apps development environment that will allow them to greatly expand their applications. Samsung's connected TVs have about 80 apps available to them today, but they are expected to grow to more than 200 before the end of the year.

The notion of greatly expanding apps on the connected TV comes with it both opportunity and risks. The opportunity comes in providing a great many more applications and testing their applicability on the connected TV display to determine their usability and demand. One question that the TV manufacturers are asking themselves is how will app use differ on the connected TV versus the smartphone. It's anecdotal to expect that entertainment-oriented apps - video, music, games, etc. - will fare well, but the industry is wondering if other types of applications will matter. Our own Digital Media Evolution II survey provides some enticing clues about the applications that may drive the sale of connected TVs in the short-term. Outside of a premium video-on-demand service (for TV shows and movies), our research finds a correlation between the high appeal for applications related to music, directions/maps, traffic, weather, news, and stocks. Also jumping out were applications for booking travel and for family calendaring.

The challenges for the manufacturers regarding apps - particularly in an open development environment - is how they can promote the freedom to develop apps while deciding which applications are appropriate for display on a TV. Also, will there be easy-to-use tools that would allow parents to set controls on the types of apps that could be accessed (and possibly paid for) by the kids?

Finally, there is plenty of talk about the reinvention of the television user interface/program guide, and its implications for discovery and search. What happens in an environment where hundreds - if not thousands - of apps are suddenly available on the TV screen? How will consumers search for and find the apps that matter to them? How will they be organized so as not to overwhelm the screen? I had an interesting briefing yesterday with a company called Veveo, which is working on ways to make the search and discovery process simpler for end-users. They indicate that although video search and discovery is a primary focus, the way in which they will help users discover and use apps on mobile and fixed consumer electronics will be a significant development path.

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