The future of TV might just be Apple-shaped

As disputes rage on between Samsung and Apple over alleged patent infringements on smartphones and tablets, yesterday saw some humour creep into the fight, as Samsung launched a new ad campaign that poked fun at Apple's devoted fanbase. But Samsung remains serious about asserting its dominance across multiple sectors, and amid fresh reports that Apple will release a new HDTV next year, Samsung confirmed that it is planning to launch new ‘smart TVs’ powered by Google TV.

Yoon Boo-keun, president of Samsung’s TV division, revealed to Reuters that the company has been working with Google on its next generation of connected televisions, which will use the search giant’s Google TV software to provide access to web content, music, video, apps and games, all built into the TV set without the need for additional hardware.

Google and Samsung are old friends, of course, having extensively collaborated in the smartphone space on the flagship Android handsets, Nexus S and the new Galaxy Nexus. Samsung showed off a Blu-Ray player with Google TV built in at CES in January, but has yet to bring it to market.

Could the new Samsung-Google collaboration give us a Nexus-branded TV?

Google TV has had something of a troubled existence so far and has yet to make its mark on an increasingly competitive market. Logitech launched its Revue set-top box powered by Google TV earlier this year. Two weeks ago, Logitech CEO Guerrino de Luca announced the end of the venture, calling it “a mistake of implementation of a gigantic nature”, and condemning Google TV as “a beta product [that] cost us dearly”. In fact, Logitech’s losses related to the project totalled $100m (£64m GBP / €75m EUR). Ouch.

Samsung clearly believes they can do things better, and their close collaboration with Google may be the key to their success. Yoon Boo-keun explained that Samsung’s implementation of Google TV would differ from those of other manufacturers. He added that Samsung will show off its next-gen TV products with new OLED displays at CES 2012 in a few weeks, but it’s not yet known if these will have Google TV built in.

The tepid reaction to Google TV products so far provide an opportunity for Apple to swoop in and offer something 'revolutionary' in the TV space. Apple already has a TV product on offer, of course – the imaginatively named Apple TV – but this plug-in device has so far been, by the company’s own admission, "just a hobby".

Don't believe the hype - it's not actually a TV at all. I mean, it hasn't even got a screen.

Ever since the revelation in Steve Jobs’ biography that he had claimed to have ‘cracked’ the best way to build an easy-to-use connected set, talk of Apple producing a full television, with software and connectivity built in, has increased. BGR reports that an analyst note to clients from Jefferies & Company indicates that Apple’s high definition TV set will go into production in February 2012, using Sharp display panels, and going on sale in the middle of next year.

Ooh, pretty. And revolutionary, magical etc.

It’s certainly possible that Apple will bring a HDTV to market. Another possibility – perhaps a more likely one – is that the company will simply make its existing Apple TV product better. How? Siri, of course.

The next version of Microsoft’s Xbox UI introduces voice controls that encourage users to search for content – games, music, TV shows, movies and more – by simply asking for it. Although Siri’s capabilities on the iPhone 4S remain somewhat limited at the moment, it’s not difficult to imagine them being transferred and expanded to the big screen in the same way that Microsoft is doing with the Xbox. Given the extraordinary excitement among iPhone 4S users over what Siri can do now, it's not hard to imagine how a better, more capable Siri might make the TV experience more 'magical' for consumers.

The television experience is ripe for disruption, and Apple's recent product history is a testament to its ability to shake up sectors that have fallen into a lull of stagnation. Microsoft's approach to TV has been typically cautious; careful not to rock the boat, it's got into bed with various content providers, but its product is shaped very much as an add-on for Xbox gamers, not a product that you need to go out and buy to make your TV even better. And Google TV has convincingly failed to live up to its promise to improve television so far; whether Samsung can make a better go of it remains to be seen.

But with Samsung now throwing its weight behind Google TV, and Microsoft working to expanding its interest in delivering content to televisions through the Xbox - and possibly even TVs with Kinect integration - Apple’s TV ambitions can’t really remain on the sidelines. Whether Apple eventually delivers a big screen, or a new little box, remains uncertain, but it seems by far the best placed to offer a truly compelling product, one that might just change the face of TV across the market.

It looks like the fight to capture the TV space will really get going next year. When it all kicks off, it’s going to be a sight to see – and you’ll be able to watch it all in the comfort of your own home.

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