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By Justin Dove

According to a report last week by Topology Research Institute (TRi), smart television sales are poised to double in 2012 to 52.85 million units, and reach 124 million units by 2014. Smart TVs are defined as television sets capable of accessing the Internet, downloading and installing applications, etc…

As displayed in the graph below, smart TV sales should remain above 3D TV sales through 2014.

Smart TV Technology Global Shipments

Consumers, Manufacturers and Smart TV Technology

But a recent article from Wired.com doesn’t inspire much confidence in that trend. It mentions that ViewSonic abandoned smart televisions altogether. Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), not mentioned in the article, also recently abandoned its foray into the world of smart TVs.

“What’s happening in the connected TV space is it’s not really about what consumers want, it’s about what manufacturers are making,” Forrester principal analyst James McQuivey told Wired. “Simply having a connected TV doesn’t mean you’ll actually use it.”

According to Gartner Research Vice President Van Baker, most people who do purchase the Internet connection don’t even use it. With such a big investment, they just want to be assured they won’t need a new TV later.

“In most cases consumers are buying a television with Internet connectivity as insurance. In other words, they are buying them just in case they need it in the future,” said Baker. “Less than half of Internet-connected televisions actually get connected to the Internet, so clearly consumers don’t yet see this capability as a must-have feature.”

McQuivey makes another good point…

“Nobody has designed these devices to be inviting, to work quickly,” said McQuivey. “We’ve found there are at least 10 activities that 50 percent or more people do on their iPad, which is very unusual. The iPad beckons you to try these things.”

However, with a smart TV, people mainly just… sit and watch TV.

The Next Step in Smart TV Technology

Most likely, the next step in smart televisions won’t be as a standalone device, but to use its connection to interact with other devices.

That’s where companies like MOVL come in. MOVL is a private company based in Atlanta that has created a platform for developers to make applications that take advantage of multiple smart devices.

“Some of the multi-screen applications that developers are creating on our platform have simply blown us away,” said MOVL CEO Juan Pablo Gnecco. “We have seen ideas ranging from basic living room interactive games and second screen TV viewing experiences, to restaurant trivia networks and even in-stadium interaction with a team’s JumboTron!”

This type of connectivity is the same idea Nintendo (OTC: NTDOY.PK) is trying to tap with its next generation Wii, the Wii U.

While MOVL’s platform supports Google’s (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android and Google TV, Samsung is the company most active in leveraging its technology. And so far, Samsung is a leader in the smart TV department, with more than 1,000 apps and more than ten million downloads already.

Smart TV Tech’s 300-Pound Apple in the Room

According to the TRi report, there are three main camps dominating smart TV technology and sales thus far:

Smart TV Technology - Three Main Camps

(Courtesy: TRi, Cens.com)

One competitor not listed here is the one that could grow to dominate all three – Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL).

Rumors have long swirled that Apple was thinking about turning its struggling Apple TV set-top box product into a standalone smart TV.

If connectivity with multiple devices is the future, Apple would certainly be well positioned. As the leading smartphone manufacturer with its iPhone, the leading tablet manufacturer with its iPad, and the upcoming iCloud to connect it all, it seems inevitable that Apple will connect it all within the home with a hub. Why not a smart TV?

Although McQuivey is totally bearish on smart TVs ever becoming a big thing, he’s still “100 percent convinced that the Apple rumor is true.”

Smart TV Technology’s Bottom Line

The numbers seem to indicate that even people who are buying the smart TVs don’t seem to be using them. Considering most connected TVs so far have just been a weaker version of a computer, it’s not surprising that people continue to use the television for viewing and the computer for the Internet.

As noted by Wired, there needs to be something new in order for company’s smart TVs to penetrate the market. That something new could be the connectedness that smart TVs could offer as a hub for the whole family. Imagine recording a video on a smartphone and seamlessly “slinging” it to the television for the whole family to watch. Or playing card games where each individual’s “hand” could be on his or her smartphone screen.

It remains to be seen, but it seems like companies such as Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) and Google are headed this way. Apple, which entered the smartphone and tablet markets after learning from other companies’ failures in PDAs, may choose that same course of action. Let the innovators stumble through mistakes and when the future becomes apparent, offer the best product. Only time will tell.

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Source: The Future Of Smart TV Technology: Samsung, Google Or Apple?