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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: 4, Insightful) by Pino P on Tuesday January 22 2019, @07:26PM (8 children)

    by Pino P (4721) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @07:26PM (#790230) Journal

    Is this a dystopian theory or experience?

    In the case of TVs, it's "a dystopian theory" as far as I'm aware. In the case of computers, it's experience. In 2002 or thereabouts, a Dell desktop computer displayed a full-screen message requiring assent to EULAs of bundled proprietary software before I could even get to BIOS Setup to wipe and Linux the thing. Though that isn't quite Internet activation, consider that until the release of Windows XP in fourth quarter 2001, Internet activation of home computer software was "a dystopian theory".

    I would gladly rack up the return trying though given how terribly sensitive even large vendors (and therefor the manufacturers) are to return rates, especially in brick and mortar.

    Until you hit the return limit of multiple sellers, or sellers start sharing data about the ID you present when you return something. At one time, Amazon allowed only five A-to-z Guarantee claims in a lifetime; that was later raised to fifty before being removed from the written policy. Brick-and-mortar stores such as Best Buy have been known to ban "demon customers" [arstechnica.com] as well.

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  • (Score: 2) by insanumingenium on Tuesday January 22 2019, @08:16PM (7 children)

    by insanumingenium (4824) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 22 2019, @08:16PM (#790267) Journal

    Funny, I didn't see the same thing with computers, and I don't know of it being the case today. At least not in the "hardware is totally unusable until connected to the internet" sense. Yeah, they (usually) come preinstalled with windows, but I have never seen a Dell machine put up any resistance to me blowing it away.

    Not that I am sold on this being apples to apples, but that speaks against the viability of total takeover fears.

    As far as banning me over honest returns, they are more than welcome to turn down my business, I will learn where I didn't want to shop in the first place.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by jmorris on Tuesday January 22 2019, @09:39PM (5 children)

      by jmorris (4844) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @09:39PM (#790307)

      iPad. From the box or factory reset you boot to a screen asking you to connect to Wifi (no captcha portals allowed) and then for your AppleID. If it doesn't connect and validate you stay right there on that screen until it does. No Internet, you got a pet rock.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @11:29PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 22 2019, @11:29PM (#790363)

        iPads no longer require connections to WiFi fresh out of the box, instead they just nag you all the time until you do. Factory reset ones that have previously been set up with Find my iPhone through an AppleID do though. The reason is to deter thieves, as you can no longer steal an iPad, factory reset it, and then sell it without having the proper AppleID information.

        • (Score: 2) by jmorris on Tuesday January 22 2019, @11:39PM (2 children)

          by jmorris (4844) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @11:39PM (#790371)

          Interesting. So factory reset isn't a full reset. So I guess somebody needs to figure out how to do a full erase?

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23 2019, @12:41AM (1 child)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23 2019, @12:41AM (#790387)

            You can at an Apple store. The "Genius" desk there has access to insider tools that the common folk don't. My Grandfather was locked out of various things when his spouse died. After we couldn't make headway in getting into the iPad due to the restrictions, we went to them, explained the situation, proved his identity and ownership to the person there, the store manager, and the HQ guy that was called on the phone. The one on the phone was eventually satisfied and gave an all-clear to the person helping us. He plugged in a lightning cable, clicked a few buttons on his computer, it reset and restarted, and no more nagging for the Apple ID. We finished setting it up there so Gramps was sure it would work and waited to do the new Apple ID at home when we had access to a computer.

            Of course, that started the long process of trying to get access to the Apple iCloud of her account, considering we didn't have her email password. That was another "fun" process.

            • (Score: 2) by jmorris on Wednesday January 23 2019, @03:08AM

              by jmorris (4844) on Wednesday January 23 2019, @03:08AM (#790434)

              That is a problem we are all going to face at some point. Google is at least thinking ahead of the pack on that one, you can dead man trigger their account. Set an email address to trip after you don't access Google for X days and it will receive some sort of code to allow them to take over everything tied to your Google account. Which is a start. But I set mine to the Mrs, what if we both get taken out in a traffic accident? Who knows. The industry was created by 20 somethings who are of course "immortal" so we are all still figuring that stuff out, hopefully some generally accepted practices get hammered out and they are eventually even sane ones. Yeah, right.

      • (Score: 2) by insanumingenium on Wednesday January 23 2019, @12:47AM

        by insanumingenium (4824) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 23 2019, @12:47AM (#790389) Journal

        True, all iOS, tvOS, and watchOS devices don't work until activated which has to be done against Apple's servers (and perhaps yours as well if you are an MDM user). That is how the much vaunted activation lock works (and why there is no activation lock on MacOS devices). And I had mentally excluded Apple from all previous conversation because people are trying so hard to be in their ecosystem.

        Though I would argue that it is in the nature of those device to be online, and activation lock has been a very successful program on the whole. Kind of a world of difference from a TV which you don't want smart apps on.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23 2019, @11:29AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 23 2019, @11:29AM (#790569)

      I tried to install lineageOS on a Samsung phone, it was necessary to unlock the bootloader with a special code obtained from Samsung website upon sending them the serial number of the phone.