Ian Fogg moderated the next session which had a topic “From Fixed Function to App Platform: What’s next for Connected CE?”
The first panel was Jacobo Toll-Messia of Hubii, a news content aggregator; Christopher Schlaeffer is from Yetu which develops smart home platforms. Leon Van de Pas is from Nokia’s (currently) Here company which offers mapping services. Christian Hilz is from Netrange which makes apps for SmartTVs.
The first question was about apps. Van de Pas said that he worked for a company that made coffee machines and developed an app for it, but nobody downloaded it, so apps have to be relevant and have to be useful. Schlaeffer said that it’s really about how you connect to the internet. For example, on PCs, people don’t use apps because consumers use Google as their home page. Only on the mobile platform was app discovery easy and useful. Schlaeffer said that his uncle can’t really use email on the PC, he would be better off with an app!
Hilz said that consumers need to learn how devices work. For example, users are accustomed to using a remote control to control a TV. It takes time to re-train them to use other ways to control the system. He also said that SmartTV was really an attempt to copy the success of smartphones, but today, most TV is just linear, still.
Fogg asked about apps in China, how are they different? Van de Pas said that the problem for Chinese companies is that other countries are smaller and more complicated, with lower growth than China and that is a big challenge to change their thinking. Some may come to markets in the US or Europe by finding partners. Schlaeffer said that there is a big problem in getting apps to work across iOS, Android and Windows – which is a big opportunity for HTML5 standards which can be used on any operating systems. Fogg said that Netflix works across operating systems – it’s about the cloud, not HTML, so he disagreed.
There was a question about entering the Chinese market, especially for Google. Toll-Messia said that there is no easy way to get into China. Schaeffer pointed out that there is a lot of “Google bashing” in Germany, but the company should be applauded for bringing innovation. Fogg asked if Google went into China, could it become the global mapping partner or a partner for local TV companies? Van de Pas said that Google had made some progress in coming into line with government requirements to operate in the country. Hilz said that China has brought copying to perfection. Companies in the country had effectively copied the concept of the Apple store by basing it on Android.
Smartphone apps have delivered success for Google and Apple, but can they deliver in the home with TVs, asked Fogg? Toll-Messia said that what works on a phone doesn’t work on a TV. He talked about the different use of the TV for relaxing, rather than for more active use. Van de Pas said that he doesn’t expect apps to appear on the TV. TV is about content viewing and you may get that content using any device. Hilz said that there have been many different apps on smart TVs in the past, but while Netflix is logical on a big screen, others, such as banking apps don’t make a lot of sense. Each device is optimum for certain content.
Schaeffer said that at the presentation layer, TVs will get more like smart devices, but the TV will remain multimedia centric. He said that users spend 50% of the time they spend on TV on a PC and there is an opportunity for apps on PCs.
Fogg asked if a programme guide will be replaced with something that looks more like an app? EPGs are not working well at the moment and there may be ways of improving the way content discovery works.
We asked a question about content discovery and whether there was an opportunity for Google and Apple if they could transform the user experience? The responses mostly talked about the different rate of evolution of different devices. TVs only change every six to seven years, but smartphones change more often. STBs can also be changed more often and Schlaeffer said that he thinks that home gateways are the key technology as they can be changed quite often.
Hilz said that for all the content you want at the moment, you probably need a TV with a couple of USB sticks attached, and that will change in the future, possibly in the next couple of years as platforms get more consolidated.