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Bad Analogy: Comparing The Rise of Smartphones to TV and Video Game Consoles

Things have heated up since the announcements of the One and PS4. A big talking point seems to be the TV angle of these consoles and it is debated at length if TV is really such a big thing. I have no problems with that debate except for one tiny little analogy which keeps popping up from time to time. Too many people compare the rise and functionality of smartphones as proof that TV and gaming will work. They talk about how phones have become more than phones now and this can be related to video game consoles. However, this analogy doesn’t work.

Smart phones are phones that do more than being your idea of a traditional phone. They can call, text, email, surf the internet, you name it a smart phone could probably do it. Taking a nice stroll down memory lane we arrive at the point when the first smart phone arrived. It isn’t the iPhone, which was released in 2007; it is in fact called the Simon (1) which released in 1994. This was the first smartphone to hit the retail market. It didn’t last long and was discontinued in 1995. We then go through various smartphones ideas from Blackberry, HP, Palm and so on. The problem is none of the devices from these companies really took off. It could be argued Blackberry were the only successful company in this area. The iPhone changed all that in 2007. Apple released a multi-touched device (with an easy to understand UI) which made things a bit more convenient. Apple ended up selling 6 million units (2). Still this pales in comparison to what the iPhone 3G sold when it was released in Q3 2008 (3). From the graph posted in (3) you can see the huge jump in sales from its previous model to the next one. Again this is down to convenience as the iPhone 3G lived up to its name and brought 3G to the platform. Both the multi-touch screen (with its pick up and play software) and 3G network made browsing the internet, accessing emails and other such simple functions much easier than going on a laptop/PC and doing it from there. The smart phone became the minicomputer you can take anywhere with you and that is why it took off; it was just a more convenient way to do things. This convenience is why the smart phone example is different from the TV and video games combination example. The two cannot be related.

The main problem with TV and consoles is, well in Microsoft’s case, the cable box is still required. There isn’t that added convenience which I mentioned when I talked about smartphones. You are still plugging your console into a cable box to control it differently. The thing to note is I use the word differently not conveniently. A convenient way is to remove the cable box entirely. In the UK we have a free service called Freeview. It has a number of channels on the service which is built into every TV (4). Ignoring the fact that it is free; the reason why it has taken off is because it is a convenient option for people who cannot afford set top boxes. When buying a TV people don’t have to worry about it not play X channel as most popular channels are on it. Plugging a games console (in this case the Xbox One) into your set top box offers nothing except a different way to control and search through channels (with the Kinect) and record live TV onto your Xbox. Recording live TV is useful for the Freeview user as Freeview doesn’t do that without an extra peripheral. However, it still doesn’t make things more convenient. TVs (cheap ones at that) are coming with preinstalled on demand services. I bought a cheap 32inch TV from Amazon which had the ITV player and BBC Iplayer built into the TV. Also those people with set top boxes have this function already. Being able to record a show onto your Xbox instead of the set top box is no major

TV and other aspects on consoles only because an important focus when it fundamentally changes the way we do things by making life more convenient. At this moment they are nice extras to have but they are not that important of a feature if they do not make the action easier. This is why gaming and TV isn’t relatable to the rise in smartphone and their functionality. Smartphones, when they became popular, made things more accessible and easier to do. At this current state, no console manufacturing is making watching TV any easier or more convenient than it is already.



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zerocrossing1744d ago

Great blog and excellent points.

It seems that many people often forget that what made smart phones so popular in the first place was their "convenience" most people have their mobile phones on them at all times anyway, so incorporating aps like being able to access social networks, playing games, checking emails and other simple tools and features, along with a portable "phone" made a lot of sense, and The touch screen UI just took the whole package to another level and made actually using the device easier and more intuitive.

But like you pointed out above, attempts made by companies such as Microsoft in implementing TV functionality into consoles is no more convenient than what we already have, and also offers no substantial benefits or improvements to our TV viewing experience, although if such benefits were to be implemented then maybe (maybe) there would be a just reason to integrate TV into our consoles.

Pisque1744d ago

I don't think you're right.

XboxFun1744d ago

I think the cable boc plug in is just the first step for MS. MS knows that in most homes there is always a cable box next to your TV. the added convenience of just plugging one into the other is simple and also being able to essentially get rid of your remote thanks to Kinect 2.

Now if you think it will just stop there then you are mistaken. Just like how we saw big improvements from the XMB launch of the 360 to now we will definitely see the same for the Xbox One. And Xbox has already said they are trying to provided original television content and I'm sure they are talking with cable companies too to do the exact same thing Sony is reportedly doing.

Soon both consoles will have cable box functionality in one way or another. Or TV channels will simply provided a On Demand service like we see now on the 360.

I think TV is important and we are just seeing the foundation now. Just like when smartphones were introduced. They were limited and not needed because of its infancy, but as they grew and matured they became essential. Now people can't see themselves without one.

The same will be applied to MS and Sony. They know that this is where tech is headed as well as Google and Apple.

s45gr321743d ago

Is a lost battle you forgot smart tvs, which are tvs with apps already installed like Netflix, hulu plus, youtube, amazon video, Facebook, crunchy roll, etc. Already these tvs can be controlled with smartphones, and Samsung smart tvs already have voice commands plus gesture control. So how Microsoft and Sony will change tv when tv has already changed and improved. Onlive had the right idea but poor execution meaning a gaming tv app through the power of the cloud. Now with Sony and Microsoft going cloud computing insane it won't be long to turn our tv and sign up to the PSN app or Xbox live app. The days of the cable box are over. Guess nobody paid attention to the tv improvements.

darthv721744d ago

I see the xb1 as more of a pass through to an existing set top box if that is how you want to configure it.

if you want to watch tv and movies without the set top box you can still do so via the different media apps from the marketplace.

I think at one time the 360 could be used as a receiver for att Uverse and verizon fios. Making the system into the set top box basically.

s45gr321743d ago

I agree with the blogger in regards to how can a console make tv viewing better. I also agree that a cable box is needed mainly for sports. Now is just that television sets have improved throughout this gaming generation meaning tvs were just for watching your local channels and the only way to watch blockbuster films, foreign films, sports was through a cable box. It remained that way for like 30 years or so, but tvs started with high definition so now people were able to watch their local channels in HD still a cable box was required. Except Consoles like PS3 and xbox 360 were able to deliver tv/movie apps like Netflix, hulu plus, youtube, amazon video, etc. So now the only thing the cable box was no longer a requirement due to consoles replacing the cable box even for sports thanks to apps like NFL or MLB. Then 3D came along now people were able to watch their local channels in 3D which it didn't happen but those that own PS3 consoles were able to play games and watch movies with 3D glasses. Finally, at the end of this generation the smart tv came along replacing both the console (if you were not interested in gaming) and cable box due to these tvs came with the same tv/movie apps like consoles. So in closing the tv has already changed for the better and I am left puzzled as to how can a console improve tv viewing?

miyamoto1741d ago (Edited 1741d ago )

hey Supes...

Android OS (you ain't seen nothin' yet)

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