Smart TV alliance formed in attempt to forestall another format war


June 20, 2012

A Smart TV Alliance was formed so apps can be developed that run on all compliant TVs

A Smart TV Alliance was formed so apps can be developed that run on all compliant TVs

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Smart TV manufacturers are making a smart move. Instead of offering competing technologies for connected TVs, they're looking to partner and form a universal platform. While manufacturers are currently pushing Smart TV technology as a way to sell more sets, the competing platforms being developed by individual manufacturers leads to consumer confusion and requires developers to customize their apps for different platforms. In order to develop a standard that can create a thriving ecosystem for developers, a number of TV manufacturers have established the SMART TV Alliance and are looking to bring competitors into the fold.

The problem is clear. With TVs becoming more and more connected and integrating more online features such as content delivery services and apps, each consumer electronics manufacturer developing its own Smart TV platform could be the dawn of a new format war. We've seen this several times in connection with the TV. In the late 70s and 1980s it was Betamax versus VHS and more recently we had HD DVD and Blu-Ray facing off. In both cases, the latter won out, but if manufacturers stand off against each other, it's not only the manufacturers but also the consumers that ultimately lose.

The mission of the Smart TV Alliance is to create a platform that will operate across all Smart TVs, which would ultimately result in a greater amount of content for all devices. The Smart TV Alliance was formed under the motto "build once, run everywhere," which means that developers interested in creating apps for Smart TVs can create one app that will run on all compliant Smart TVs.

Founding members of the Alliance are LG Electronics and TP Vision, which represents Philips TV. A handful of Japanese TV manufacturers are also said to be making steps to join.

"Before today, the Smart TV industry was a very difficult market for both TV manufacturers and application developers as TVs from different brands used different platforms and technologies," says Bong-seok Kwon of LG Electronics and president of the Smart TV Alliance. "Smart TV Alliance creates a larger playing field which encourages developers to create more and better TV applications at the same time giving manufactures and consumers the richest source of movies-on-demand, music services, games, social networking and more."

While developers would appreciate a unified ecosystem for developing apps for the Smart TV platform, the Alliance also clears any confusion that consumers might also experience. Each Smart TV manufacturer might still have its own app store, but in the future, there could also be one general Smart TV app store. There won't be an issue of whether a particular app will work on a particular TV.

Manufacturers will also benefit from reduced development costs associated with creating their own platform. "Instead of spending valuable time on porting and testing on different platforms, developers can focus their creativity solely on realizing apps that consumers will enjoy. Now we can really make it interesting and fun for everybody," says Alain Perrot of TP Vision, and a Smart TV Alliance Executive board member.

In an effort to attract new partners to join, the organization has established Smart TV Alliance Consortium. The consortium's primary objective is to help define technical specifications that will enable application developers to create their applications once and run them on multiple TVs regardless of the platform.

An initial goal of the Alliance is to make the first version of its SDK available for free on its website so developers can get started on applications. The SDK is based on open web technologies such as HTML 5, and allows for developed web applications to run on Smart TVs from participating members. The first version, SDK 2.0, is expected to be released at the end of the year, in order for developers to create applications for 2013 model TV sets from participating Alliance members. Registration for the SDK is currently open on the Smart TV Alliance website.

While it remains to be seen if all major manufacturers will get on board, developers and consumers should be crossing their fingers they do.

Source: Smart TV Alliance

About the Author
Enid Burns Enid began her freelance writing career reviewing video games after spending several hundred dollars upgrading a DOS-based machine to get Syndicate to run. Since then she's added coverage of mobile phones, consumer electronics and online advertising to her writing portfolio. Essentially, she's fascinated by shiny objects and making them light up. All articles by Enid Burns

Terrible idea ... format wars are necessary to push the envelope forward and develop new technologies ... this is a roundabout way to create a technology monopoly, whereby the manufacturers will set prices amongst themselves and CONSUMERS WILL SUFFER for it ... I ask all to do what they can to prevent this ...

Christopher Porozny

Christopher Porozny,

Format wars are not necessary. DIVX vs. DVD did nothing to advance DVD technology, but it did cost Circuit City a boatload of money. Likewise, consumers aren't suffering from Blu-ray prices, with cheap discs and players widely available. In fact, Blu-ray prices plummeted faster after the format war with HD DVD ended and consumers could buy with confidence, knowing they wouldn't be stuck with an orphan format. The only losers there were Toshiba and consumers who bought HD DVD players and movies.


It could squash innovation... noooo doubt.


The innovation comes in the form of the different apps, created by different developers. What they're basically doing is creating a universal operating system. The developers can then create an app for the OS and it'll work on all TVs. Just like programs on your computer. What happens if I have a TV in one room and had to purchase an app X that I wanted for it. The TV in in the next room doesn't have the same OS so I have to wait for the developer to (hopefully) get it working on it and that's IF the manufacturer of that TV allows it. Not to mention the possibility that I might have to re-purchase it of the second TV. If and when I can get it on the other TV, there's no guarantee that it look or even function the same as on the first. Hence consumer confusion.

Rob Campbell Jr.

Anyone else thinking they should use android as platform? I think it will be much more mature than anything the TV industry will produce.

Patrik Nordberg

How do Smart TV Apps differ from Google TV (Android apps)? LG Seems to support both on different TV Models.

Kurt Baumann
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