Where’s the value proposition in new technology?

By Stephen Rhodes

Explain to me the value proposition in new technology. I am, let me rephrase that, my wife is in the market for a LARGE flat-screen TV. I know, role reversal. We have a 26 inch RCA solid state thingy that has been ticking since about 1990. Works just fine, touch wood.

The flat-screen Plasma/LCD/LED world is argghhh! It’s quicksand out there, and there is a feeding frenzy as prices are dropping faster than Isaac Newton’s apple.

I go looking for help online. I’m thinking ahead – is it possible to add the Internet to this behemoth? Can I surf the web in hi-def on 55 inches of  colourful splendour?

Jeremy Toeman has worked in the field of convergence between computers, the Internet and TV , and recently he posted on Mashable arguing that the biggest challenge smart televisions face in 2011 is overcoming customers’ FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). That’s me.

Smart televisions? I thought I was just looking for a big television. Some Hi- Def, Blue Ray, big screen for my aging eyes.

He says in the  2000s, buying a new TV was easy. The bigger the screen, the better the television. Some bells and whistles but otherwise pretty straight forward. I am thinking I should have bought 10 years ago. Damn.

“Now enter smart TVs and 3-D TVs. To the industry, these devices represent an opportunity to upsell consumers with added benefits and features. But to consumers, these connected televisions also introduce planned obsolescence into television life cycles. Planned obsolescence is a concept where companies sell products with a limited lifespan or functionality to encourage repeat purchases and upgrades. The result? Consumers are staying away from new TV. Instead of getting excited for new features, they are getting scared. To quote a recent industry article: “Despite all the hype, 3-D sets haven’t been a runaway success, and Internet-capable ones haven’t fared much better.”

Why is this happening? Sure, a slow economy is one reason, but there are others that are more concerning to television makers and the consumer electronics industry as a whole. It’s my opinion that FUD is a major factor in 3-D TV failure as well. Consumers’ questions include: Do I need more glasses? Does it work with my Blu-ray? Will all titles be compatible?

Joe says technology issues – meaning I need an engineering degree to make this work, or worse, how many hours will I have to wait for tech support – are a concern. Obsolescence – or  how long before I need another one, will it be outdated before I actually get it working   – is another concern.

I must admit, I was confused with the just going big part, without the going smart part.

Joe says, most smart TVs are being touted for their technology rather than the benefits they provide people. Instead of telling people that the weather app is on their TV (a feature), the industry should emphasize the personal weather forecasts smart TVs generate that are tailored for individual needs (a benefit). For the average consumer, Facebook on TV sounds like a lot of work (“Where will I type? Do I still “Like” stuff? Does FarmVille work? What else do I need to do?”). Putting Twitter on the television sounds like it is a lot of work. Anything that involves a mouse and a keyboard seems — and is — onerous to the living room context. The value proposition for smart TVs has to be the effortless delivery of content in ways that mirror the ease of standard TV experience.

So, now I got all this other stuff to consider. If you want to sell me the smart television, I need to know the benefits – what’s in it for me, how easy is it to use and how long will it last? Marketing 101.

My 26 inch RCA has been going 20 years. We understand each other. It’s easy to use. Honey?

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