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posted by martyb on Tuesday January 22 2019, @05:57PM   Printer-friendly
from the you-can-still-be-the-product-even-if-you-pay-for-it dept.

Submitted via IRC for chromas

Taking the smarts out of smart TVs would make them more expensive

CES is always a show about the future of TVs, and this year is particularly interesting. Not only are 4K HDR TVs better and cheaper than ever, but the software side of things is opening up in unprecedented ways. Not only are Google Assistant and Alexa control everywhere, but Apple’s embracing the TV industry for the first time: Vizio and LG TVs will support AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, while Samsung TVs will get an iTunes Movies & TV app, as well as AirPlay 2 support.

I just hung out with Vizio CTO Bill Baxter on the Vergecast, and the conversation was wide-ranging and illuminating. Vizio just announced its 2019 lineup of 4K HDR TVs, and they’re as impressive as ever: there’s brighter, bolder colors from quantum-dot technology for the M- and P-series TVs, and the new flagship P-Series Quantum X line has 480 local dimming zones and a wild peak brightness of 2,900 nits. In terms of pure hardware, these are some of the best 4K HDR TVs I’ve seen yet.

[...] And we definitely talked about the pervasive ad tracking that all smart TVs do — especially after I noticed the new Vizio P-Series in my parents’ house seems to ping the network an awful lot. Baxter told me that he thinks Vizio is the industry leader in disclosing what tracking is happening and letting users opt in or out during setup, and that he’s fine if people choose to turn it off. But he was also clear that TV companies are in a cutthroat business, and that companies like Vizio would have to charge higher prices for hardware if they didn’t run content, advertising, and data businesses.

[...] I guess I have a philosophical question. You guys are committed to low price points and you often beat the industry at those price points. Can you hit those price points without the additional data collection that TV does if you don’t have an ad business or a data business on top of the TV?

So that’s a great question. Actually, we should have a beer and have a long, long chat about that.

So look, it’s not just about data collection. It’s about post-purchase monetization of the TV.

This is a cutthroat industry. It’s a 6-percent margin industry, right? I mean, you know it’s pretty ruthless. You could say it’s self-inflicted, or you could say there’s a greater strategy going on here, and there is. The greater strategy is I really don’t need to make money off of the TV. I need to cover my cost.

And then I need to make money off those TVs. They live in households for 6.9 years — the average lifetime of a Vizio TV is 6.9 years. You would probably be amazed at the number of people come up to me saying, “I love Vizio TVs, I have one” and it’s 11 years old. I’m like, “Dude, that’s not even full HD, that’s 720p.”

But they do last a long time and our strategy — you’ve seen this with all of our software upgrades including AirPlay 2 and HomeKit — is that we want to make things backward compatible to those TVs. So we’re continuing to invest in those older TVs to bring them up to feature level comparison with the new TVs when there’s no hardware limitation that would otherwise prevent that.

And the reason why we do that is there are ways to monetize that TV and data is one, but not only the only one. It’s sort of like a business of singles and doubles, it’s not home runs, right? You make a little money here, a little money there. You sell some movies, you sell some TV shows, you sell some ads, you know. It’s not really that different than The Verge website.


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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @06:12PM (15 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @06:12PM (#790178)
    It might find an open channel and connect.
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  • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Tuesday January 22 2019, @06:24PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @06:24PM (#790184)

    It's actually getting harder to find wide open WiFi ...
    Since Vizio doesn't make enough margin to pay for cellular access behind your back, that should be pretty safe, too.

    But more importantly, they are talking about offering services to make extra money, not just spying on you. You can't offer services to someone who treats you as a dumb HDMI panel.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @06:25PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @06:25PM (#790185)

    ..Or your Samsung might connect via its own private wifi hotspot (defined by Samsung) to other Samsungs in your neighbor's houses who have connected theirs to the Internet, and slurp all your data over that way..

  • (Score: 2) by EvilSS on Tuesday January 22 2019, @06:39PM (1 child)

    by EvilSS (1456) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 22 2019, @06:39PM (#790196)
    I think you might be overestimating how smart a "smart" TV actually is.
    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @09:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @09:50PM (#790315)

      The TV? Not so much. The marketers on the other hand...

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by fyngyrz on Tuesday January 22 2019, @06:56PM (3 children)

    by fyngyrz (6567) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @06:56PM (#790207) Journal

    It might find an open channel and connect.

    Just connect it to any old router you can dig up; don't connect the router to anything. Then it's not hunting for a network. It's unlikely to go off LAN-hunting on its own if it's already connected to a LAN.

    Although there is some humor in the TV reporting what channels you've selected... via the IP assigned to someone else. "Neighbor: Why the hell do I keep getting sports brochures???"

    Anyway, the best use of these is as an HDMI monitor. Feed it from whatever you like. Then all it's really got to say about anything is "HDMI port x active."

    Even if you're using Netflix or something with a Fire or other device, Netflix (and Amazon, in the case of the Fire) already knows you're a Netflix user, and what you like. There's no need at all for Samsung to know as well. Or at least, if they want to know, make them buy the info from Netflix / Amazon, etc.

    Me, I prefer DVD / Blu-ray media as opposed to streaming. Much higher quality, immune to network problems, and the ability to replay the content anytime I like. The whole "no one knows what we're watching" thing is a side effect, but a pleasant one.

    --
    Cashier: "Did you find everything?"
         Me: "Why, are you hiding stuff?"

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Ken_g6 on Tuesday January 22 2019, @11:25PM (1 child)

      by Ken_g6 (3706) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @11:25PM (#790361)

      Anyway, the best use of these is as an HDMI monitor. Feed it from whatever you like. Then all it's really got to say about anything is "HDMI port x active."

      You didn't read TFA, did you?

      [reporter:] And then you are in fact collecting your data. You do run [automatic content recognition].

      [Vizio CEO:] Absolutely. So it’s what the glass on the TV sees, just to be really straight. Whatever the TV sees.

      He goes on to say you have to opt in to automatic content recognition with Vizio. No guarantee other platforms do the same.

      • (Score: 2) by fyngyrz on Wednesday January 23 2019, @03:09AM

        by fyngyrz (6567) on Wednesday January 23 2019, @03:09AM (#790435) Journal

        And then you are in fact collecting your data. You do run [automatic content recognition].

        Not without a WAN connection, they won't be.

        --
        It's not really how I look that reveals my age.
        It's using complete sentences when I text.

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23 2019, @02:45AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23 2019, @02:45AM (#790427)

      Me, I prefer DVD / Blu-ray media as opposed to streaming. Much higher quality, immune to network problems, and the ability to replay the content anytime I like. The whole "no one knows what we're watching" thing is a side effect, but a pleasant one.

      Not me. DVDs look like total crap, and Blu-Rays are expensive. The best solution is to just download Blu-Ray rips on BitTorrent: you get very high quality video, no network problems (after the download is complete), the ability to replay anytime you like, not having to pay for anything (aside from your ISP fee, plus it's smart to pay a few $/month for a VPN), and as a bonus, you don't have bookshelves full of optical discs wasting space in your home, and you can instead fit your entire video library on a single hard drive.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by zocalo on Tuesday January 22 2019, @07:10PM (1 child)

    by zocalo (302) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @07:10PM (#790220)
    In that case you could either manually configure an IP address on it that is technically valid, and maybe even connects to a gateway, but has no further onward route. Or even setup a dedicated SSID/subnet on your router that silently drops any outbound packets onto the floor giving every appearance of a valid config but with an Internet outage. Vendors might want to try a few trivial workarounds, but something like that is going to put you so far into diminishing returns I doubt you'd need to worry about them breaking out of the sandbox.
    --
    UNIX? They're not even circumcised! Savages!
    • (Score: 2) by NotSanguine on Tuesday January 22 2019, @10:37PM

      by NotSanguine (285) <NotSanguineNO@SPAMSoylentNews.Org> on Tuesday January 22 2019, @10:37PM (#790333) Homepage Journal

      In that case you could either manually configure an IP address on it that is technically valid, and maybe even connects to a gateway, but has no further onward route.

      Which is just what I did with my Vizio TV. I also did network captures to see which domains the TV was attempting to contact and used my local DNS server to point requests to those domains right back at the Vizio TV.

      Good times!

      --
      No, no, you're not thinking; you're just being logical. --Niels Bohr