Talking about the future (or lack of) for Smart TV, I said;

Today, a typical household might have;

  • TV (well, probably a couple — but ignoring secondary screens for the moment to try to simplify the picture…)
  • TV service (cable/satellite/terrestrial) - probably a separate set-top box (given that over half of the UK pays for subscription TV service.)
  • PVR (eg. Sky+/V+) for recording broadcast TV - two thirds of the UK have one (probably built into the TV set top box, or possibly as a separate VCR-like box — probably not built into the TV.)
  • DVD player/Blu-Ray player for watching pre-recorded films/video.
  • Games console (55% of households) — mainly for playing games, but often used to access online video services.
  • Some sort of dedicated 'Internet video' device (might be an Apple TV, Now TV, Roku etc. Might be a connected PC. Might even be more than one.)

Those last two are somewhat different to the others. 98% of UK households have a television set, and if you have a TV then you have some sort of TV service (whether free or paid.) If you have a PVR, then its probably come from your TV service provider, bundled with the package.

DVD/Blu-Ray players are another 'must-have' – whether its a low end DVD player, cheap enough to throw in with your supermarket shop, or a high end, high definition player to watch your favourite films in the best possible quality.

But games consoles – while popular – aren't for everyone. If you aren't interested in games, you probably don't have one in your house, and if you do you probably aren't too interested in the 'additional' features it offers – like watching online video.

Finally, the 'internet video device'. If you are interested in streaming films, setting up a Netflix subscription etc. then you're probably interested enough to get something to let you watch it on the big screen. But that's not 'mainstream' – if you're not interested in gadgets, you're probably not interested in finding the best box for your requirements. And even if you are, you might not be sufficiently motivated to go and spend the best part of £100 (or, to put it another way, more than a Blu-Ray player).

Which is what makes Google's Chromecast such an interesting device. At just $35 in the US (about £21 equivalent), it plugs into your TV (and a power supply), connects to your home wifi network, and lets you stream video from your smartphone/tablet to your TV screen.1

And its UK launch is rumoured to be soon

For YouTube and Netflix, this is probably going to be great news (they are already supported in the US, and both go for a general strategy of ubiquitous availability.) Whether the UK's TV players will be bringing iPlayer, ITV Player and 4OD (especially the BBC) is what will be the make or break.

…Which leaves Sky. Their Now TV) box is just £9.99, and is being marketed as a way to access Sky's (subscription) TV services without a satellite dish. But it also has apps for iPlayer, 4OD, Spotify, Vimeo and a number of other online services – Netflix and YouTube conspicuous by their absence.

The thing is, these are two very similar pieces of technology with clearly very different functionality; one for putting online video on your TV, the other for giving you TV through online video. And while the price is low enough to make getting both quite affordable, there is the issue of having 2 spare HDMI sockets in your TV set.

But, for those not interested in shelling out for a Smart TV or sticking a games console into their living rooms, this should be an interesting and cheap way to get some online video onto their TV screen.

  1. At least, thats the illusion. In practice, the mobile device just tells the Chromecast what video to stream and where to pull it from – the phone doesn't actually do the work, which means its free to find the next video you want to watch.