April 22, 2017

The latest in TV technology - Q1 2017

It’s been a while since the last overview of what’s happening in the world of TV technology, so it’s high time for another update.

As always, the year kicked off with CES in Las Vegas, where each of the large TV brands (Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Philips, etc) presented its plans for 2017. Same as last year, the focus in display technology was on HDR, which is becoming the new normal.

While in the past LG was the only company known for OLED technology, many others announced OLED screens as well, although most of these will probably be rebranded LG displays. Another trend was a move towards extremely thin screens, with the logic, HDMI ports, offloaded to a separate module which can be hidden discretely. Old non-sensical hypes like 3D TV or curved TVs are going away. In the area of software, there were relatively few changes. There were the usual updates to webOS, Tizen, etc, but no major shifts.

The only problematic case appears to be Firefox OS, which runs on some Panasonic TVs, for which the development team inside Mozilla was scrapped. In the console space, Sony is stronger than ever with its PlayStation 4. It has sold a massive 53 million consoles, dwarfing Microsoft’s Xbox One sales, which are roughly half. Meanwhile, both Sony and Microsoft are steadily working on improving the software on their consoles. The next big step will be Microsoft’s introduction of its Project Scorpio Xbox at E3 in June.

The big news in the console space was the launch of Nintendo’s new Switch console, which is basically a handheld which can also be docked to a TV. While very interesting, Nintendo has chosen to focus exclusively on gaming for now. Video streaming capabilities are expected to be added later on, but none are present on the device right now. With regards to set-top boxes,

Apple appears to finally be working on a 4K and HDR version of its Apple TV. Currently, it’s the only major TV platform which hasn’t got that capability yet. NVIDIA pushed out a new version of its SHIELD TV at CES, where Amazon announced that it is licensing its Fire TV OS to Smart TV brands, similar to how Roku TV and Android TV work. Amazon also significantly overhauled the user interface of its Fire TV software. Roku is finally deprecating its old legacy SDK in favour of the much more versatile and pretty SceneGraph SDK.

Outside of the major players, Caavo announced a set-top box to connect them all, although the price is very high at $400. Meanwhile, the shift in political power in the US has resulted in a new FCC which is unlikely to force any changes to the operator set-top box landscape in the US.

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