I’ve been working in the tech industry for long enough to see some real clunker products along the way. From PCs shaped like fish to messaging clients that relied on slow GSM networks, there have been some memorably dud products. One that stands out in memory as a particularly odd product was LG’s Internet Fridge, a $17,000 food cooling device that also included an internet-connected computer in the door.
It didn’t sell well. Technology-improved versions of gadgets haven’t typically set the world on fire, largely because the costs have generally been high — why would you spend seventeen thousand dollars on a low-rent PC tacked onto a fridge when you could spend a couple of thousand on a large fridge and the same on a laptop — and feature sets haven’t exactly enhanced the experience of using the device. I may be a fan of social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook, but that doesn’t mean I need to update my status while I’m grabbing some milk.
Oddly enough, LG’s having another crack at the Internet Fridge concept again, with models announced at this year’s CES trade show back in January, but that was a minor concept next to the next big thing to get a tech makeover, that being the concept of “Smart” TVs. Most of the major TV vendors have a Smart TV platform now, offering up social networking, light internet browsing, some games and access to catch-up TV services from the ABC and Channel 7. There’s support for developers to make TV-specific applications, but as yet there’s no central standard for those applications, which means the features and apps available on one manufacturer’s TVs may not be available on the other.
The Smart TV concept probably has more legs than the Internet Connected Fridge, Wireless Toaster or MixMaster-With-Inbuilt Fax (not that those last two actually exist) simply because they’ve largely been priced at the same kinds of price points we’re used to seeing TVs priced at, so you’re not spending too much extra for those features. More critically they’re better because the features they offer make a certain amount of sense. When I’m watching TV and want to check something, the option to quickly bring up a web page makes sense. With the addition of a camera, the opportunity to hook up a video Skype call with the entire family sitting on the couch makes sense. If there’s a brief pause for some advertising, I’d probably rather while the time away with a quick ad-hoc game than being told why I should buy this year’s rustbucket. You get the idea.
It’s early days for the Smart TV concept. What do you think? Will your next TV purchase be a Smart TV, or will the concept go colder than the Internet Fridge?