I love TV technology, but wince when I see an $11K Japan-only Toshiba stuffed with a 3TB DVR. And adding internet widgets, like Samsung's, is even worse. I hate this trend—TVs just need great picture and lower cost.
TV makers may think we want these things, and I think they're right we want content on our sets, but I don't want it from them. I'd believe that such extras might help sales in a world where ever ad says their set is the prettiest in picture. I believe that they believe that extras like this help sales. But I don't think a smart TV buyer would want these extras, or use them very often.
Several months ago, I reviewed the pinnacle of junk extra content in a Samsung LCD TV, which I didn't love but earned much critical acclaim. The 7000 and 8000 series in this line up had identical specs to the 6000, more or less, but for a few hundred dollars more, you could get WIDGET-FIED. There was a menu, hidden, that when you found it had an astounding amount of content. Insane, weirdo content. Receipes for dinner, lunch, desert annotated, step by step. Over 15 creepy children's songs, by a big yellow and short blue cartoon character. Bowling and a Galaga type game. Yahoo Widgets: An open API system that allows for weather, tweeting and flickr photos. Only 8 had been developed and so the openness was a joke. So was the performance. It was heartbreakingly slow to load, and therefore useless. Like all the other extras, they were poorly implemented, added cost to the set, and were instantly outdated. Here's the review, or just watch this ridiculous video:
I think some basic media playback in a TV is fine. I'll take that. Though so many Blu-ray players and set-top boxes are doing the same thing, it's almost certain to be redundant. And it's better to keep all that outside the TV itself, anyway. If you have to add processors and Ethernet connections to a TV to run shitty software and content, I'd rather they didn't.
Because here's the thing: People keep TVs for a long time, and building TVs is serious business. They should focus on the set itself. And they can't beat the content in my Xbox, and even if they did for a second, an Xbox is replaceable rather easily, compared to a HDTV set that costs thousands of dollars. I plan to get one TV and have it last over several generations of Xboxes.
TV makers, please stick to making the pixels more pretty. We'll get our content from who we want, the way we want to.