/ Technology

CES 2012 – we want more future-proof products, please

Smart TV

The Consumer Electronics Show, where tech giants flex their muscles with their latest innovations, is hosted each January in Las Vegas. Traditionally hardware has been on show, but I think services will soon take over.

Over the years there have been a number of ‘hero’ products unveiled at CES, such as camcorders in 1981, the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, DVD players in 1996 and HD TVs in 1998.

But I feel these physical products will soon take more of a backseat, with services and peripheral accessories beginning to dominate over the next few years.

We’re a long way off a CES without new TVs on show, but I think it’s edging that way. So, instead of writing about new products on display at CES, I expect I’ll soon need to begin focussing more on the new features being added to existing products.

A signal for significant software updates

The quality and performance of the hardware will always be key, but can we really be expected to replace our tellies every six months to keep apace with a seemingly relentless onslaught?

I’d like to see a shift towards more significant software updates to our TVs, much like the ones we’re getting used to with smartphone operating system updates, and even the apps we download on a daily basis.

Smart TVs are slowing making their way into our living rooms, even if they’re not quite up to the standard where their ‘smart’ technology is anything more than just a nice add on.

Hopefully we’ll see a better attempt at smart tellies at this year’s CES. LG is going to unveil its Google (Android) TV, which could be a step closer to a product that we can customise and upgrade without needing to replace it a year later when it becomes obsolete. Disappointingly, LG’s Google telly isn’t destined for a UK launch until 2013.

Give me an app

Apple, also expected to enter the TV market soon, is another example of where a physical product doesn’t need to take centre stage. Apple won’t be at CES again this year, but its influence will be prevalent via an iLounge – an area dedicated to iPhone and iPad apps.

TV manufacturers, like all businesses, need to make money. But rather than trying to push new hardware (3D TVs anyone?) maybe there’s money to be made in the services sold through their products. With this approach, perhaps you’d feel more confident that the technology you buy would be more future-proof?


Thanks for posting this, Ben. Whether we are worried about the environmental impact of obsolete equipment or just the cost of keeping up-to-date (both in my case), this is going to become a real problem for most of us.

I am happy to buy a new laptop computer every two or three years, even at Apple prices, because I know I will make a lot of use of it. I need to do something about my TV and set-top box because they are inconvenient and following the digital switchover I am missing channels that I used to receive. I am reluctant to spend money on equipment that will soon become outdated, particularly since I do not watch much TV. Mine is still unplugged because I was away for Christmas and the New Year, so I may carry on procrastinating and continue to use iPlayer.

As which proved – companies can’t service old laptops – so the culture has become to expect a new one every 3 years (real world experience of management types).

A PC desktop is simpler to fix, but the hardware is obsolete so quickly it becomes difficult and Microsoft doesn’t help with their restrictive OEM licensing, eg: you can’t change a motherboard without a new license. Nasty.

Being able to insert a card to install a major update sounds great, but I fear it could be expensive, like updating a built-in sat-nav on a car (which can cost more buying a separate unit). Have you any idea of what a new card would cost and how frequently Samsung plan to bring out updates?

A more economical route might be to treat the TV as a giant monitor and run it from a laptop or other device that will be replaced more frequently than the TV.