At yesterday’s launch of the new Humax FreeviewHD recorder – about which I may write more later, though other sites have plenty of previews – an interesting point was raised about connected TV and how it’s sold.
Walk into any of the high street retailers, and very often you’ll find that the digital TV recorders aren’t even connected up to television sets. If you’re lucky, there might be a remote control that you can play with somewhere, but the chances of seeing what the on-screen interface looks like, or of getting a feel for how responsive it is, are minimal.
The same is true of connected TVs. Panasonic’s VieraCast models, together with those from other manufacturers like Sony and Samsung all have some useful online functionality, ranging from the weather and YouTube to support for Demand Five, or LoveFilm online rentals.
But it’ll be a rare day indeed when you find a shop that actually has managed to connect all those sets up to an internet connection – some of them find it hard enough even displaying a proper HD feed as it is.
Humax says that they’re working to try and resolve this, because it’s going to be a big issue in future. Their PVR is likely to be one of the pricier ones on the market, coming in at £329. A lot of the extra functionality is in things that demand a network connection, or at the very least a USB stick plugged in – stuff like playing back downloaded clips, accessing SkyPlayer or iPlayer and even being able to share the contents of the hard drive with other Humax set top boxes in the home.
If all you have is a box sitting on a shelf, with a label telling you there are two tuners and a 500GB hard drive, that really isn’t going to help explain to customers why they should spend more on your product than on one that superficially looks similar. You really do need to connect these boxes up to show them off, so that customers can understand what’s going on.
When Canvas appears next year, that’s going to be even more important – a system that is designed around merging broadcast and on demand content really will need to be better served by the retailers.
I really do hope they step up to the mark, and that pressure from the likes of Humax can persuade some of the UK’s major outlets to invest in proper staff training, and to provide net access to demonstrate how these new devices really work.
At the moment, though, I have a terrible fear that what will actually happen is that certain outlets will simply end up saying “Well, Sir, for the best experience with the internet TV function, you really need to buy this gold-plated ethernet cable for just £75.”