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Scrapheap challenge: How Amazon and Google are dumbing down the gogglebox

It's time to get some guarantees for smart TV

Commit to support

Maybe seven years is too long to expect software updates to a TV set – but I'm pretty sure that we shouldn't be seeing key apps vanishing from devices within two years, either. And at the very least, I think it's about time that certification schemes or subscription services make clear their commitment to updates.

For instance, could Freeview make it a condition of certification that a manufacturer commits to maintaining not just the main set firmware, but the smart services increasingly built in too? Couldn't services like Amazon and Netflix show 'Guaranteed compatible until...' next to each device on their sign up pages?

Freeview HD logo

Should the likes of Freeview mandate support periods, or withhold certification?

It might be a bit of a minefield for manufacturers, especially where there's a reliance on third parties like Google and so on. But if Panasonic, Sony, and everyone else had said “We won't include YouTube in our TV unless you guarantee the API will carry on working for five years, because otherwise we can't get certification for the UK,” would the plug have been pulled quite so quickly?

As consumers, it seems to me, there's not a lot we can do individually. You might be able to claim a set hasn't been “reasonably durable” in court, but it's not going to be easy to set a precedent. If consumer electronics manufacturers are going to use smart services as one of the selling points of their kit, then they need to be prepared to back those up, and make sure that the service providers are holding up their end of the bargain.

Samsung UE55D8000

Samsung's popular D8000 range from 2011 is amongst those losing Amazon Video next month

'Tis not so sweet now

Much as consumer entertainment makers may like to wash their hands of this, and say “we're powerless,” I don't think they really are. As far as the punters are concerned, it's the CE companies that have let them down. Those companies need to stand up to Google and Amazon, and point out the damage to their brands caused by early removal of online services. It's not good enough to put a YouTube logo on the box, and then walk away.

Back when smart TVs appeared, some of the people pushing them seemed to have fond ideas that they, not traditional broadcasters, would become a new sort of gatekeeper. They'd not only make money selling us a TV, but by doing deals with people who wanted to their apps and channels to appear on the TV home screen. It was never going to work, not least because none of them really seemed to put their heart into anything beyond the whizzy press launch.


Forget smart TV. Just add casting support to TVs or AV amps

So here's an idea for the big consumer electronics companies. Quit with the Smart TV nonsense, and just support casting from tablets and phones. Or perhaps not even that; I'd be happy if my AV receiver included something like Miracast and allowed that to be output via the HDMI port.

If you can't give a guarantee of a reasonable duration of support for fancy services built in to a TV, then you should stop including them, as they're no more than a box ticking exercise for the marketing department. Just make a damn good screen, and leave the rest to us. ®

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