The tech research firm Gartner is predicting that almost 85% of all flat-panel TVs made in 2016 will be internet-enabled "smart TVs." Worldwide production of "smart" flat-panel TVs is also predicted rise to 198 million units in 2016, up 35% from 2012's 69 million units.
While manufacturers will be excited enough about the new technology to increase production, it is not predicted that consumer demand will rise at the same rate. Gartner's new report suggests that manufacturers will have to offer "compelling reasons" for consumers to choose their brand.
"In the end, the choice may be all about the extra content that one TV brand offers over another," said Paul O’Donovan, principal research analyst at Gartner. "Consumers will be asking questions such as, which Internet TV services can the TV access? Are these the sites I think are valuable? Can I use my smartphone or tablet with this TV? It is critical for the TV industry during this global economic downturn and decline in consumer confidence levels, to sustain sales and maintain or grow market share - especially in emerging markets. This is difficult when demand has slowed, so the extra functionality offered by smart TVs becomes the product differentiator - if prices are already competitive and all other variables are equal between brands."
These predictions follow an entire year of rumors that tech's biggest brand, Apple, will be entering the flat-panel TV with an iOS-based HDTV. The rumors have persisted through reports that manufacturing troubles and cable company stonewalling have delayed the release of the device.
If the cable industry continues to overvalue its content and delay the merger of computers and television, the television industry might not have the luxury of an Apple-led, iTunes-like push into a new business model. With YouTube channels now reaching subscriber numbers in the millions, traditional networks may end up regretting their stubbornness when most customers have "smart" TVs in 2016.