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Vendors have second stab at smart TV standard

Set to die screening?

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Major TV manufacturers are making another stab at persuading their competitors to jointly develop and support a standard platform for smart TV apps.

LG and TP Vision today announced the formation of the Smart TV Alliance, a re-branded version of the partnership announced by LG, Philips and Sharp back in September 2011 at the IFA show.

Back then, the trio's goal was to create a smart TV apps platform based on open standards - it uses HTML 5, CE-HTML, HbbTV and others - to publish the SDK and get other TV makers to back it. The SDK was duly released, but they have failed to attract broader support.

Smart TV Alliance logo

But while LG remains committed to the project, original participant Sharp's name was notably absent from today's announcement, though reference was made to "other Japanese TV manufacturers in the process of joining".

Philips' circumstances have changed since in the intervening nine months too. Back then it made and sold televisions; now it doesn't. In April 2012, it quit the market and licensed its name to Asian screen maker TPV Technology, the company behind brands like AOC and Envision. The two formed a joint-venture, TP Vision. to market Philips-branded tellies. Philips has a 30 per cent stake.

TP Vision is still backing the LG initiative, but until there's solid backing from others the Alliance's efforts to become a standard seem unlikely to pay off.

The benefits are clear: app makers can write one version of their code and have it run on a range of sets. But until the Smart TV Alliance standard becomes more widely supported, they'll still have to write separate apps for Sony Bravias, Samsungs, Toshiba Regzas, Panasonic Vieras and so on.

Worse, there's a 'cake and eat it too' element to the Smart TV Alliance specification. Today's announcement also highlighted the work being done on SDK 2.0, due out by the end of the year and which developers "will be able to create applications for 2013 TV sets from participating Alliance members".

Yes, 2013 sets - but not necessarily 2012 sets. The nature of the core components means there will be some backward compatibility, but don't bank on it, the Alliance's announcement seems to suggest.

We've already seen how, for example, Sony has made a Netflix app available for its latest Bravia TVs, but flipped a finger to any customer with the audacity to own a Sony-branded smart TV from previous years.

And that's the problem: will smart TV technology ever take off when television makers, even those promoting multi-vendor standards, insist on minimising the compatibility between one year's TVs and the the next. ®

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