Smart TVs: the (un)idiot box

Tablet computers seem to have stolen the show during the ongoing Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas with the FT reporting that sales of the by now ubiquitous device expected to reach 24million in the US alone. From Microsoft's Xoom to RIM's Playbook and Samsung's inelegantly named Sliding 7 PC Series there seemed no dearth of new entrants. However a less heralded trend is the soon to come explosion in "smart" TVs. 

The electronics show in Las Vegas featured has its share of "smart TVs", internet connected devices which can draw on programming from YouTube, Netflix and Hulu, all of which were limited to computers and/or smart phones with their limited display screens.  Any Smart TV that comples with the standard set by the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) for sharing media among devices can play movies and music whether from a laptop or a smartphone and most any device that connects to a wireless network. This vast treasure trove of programming, films and other video content can now be easily put it on the big screen and likely will be a must whether at home or in a hotel.

An understanding of the technology to do make it work remains a challenge as a report in CNN Tech notes that "each television manufacturer has its own take on what the software that lets a TV connect to the internet should look like." Neverthless, the promise it holds is transformative when it comes to viewer choices at home and on the road. Technology website Gigaom.com goes so far as say that we are "on the cusp of the biggest technological upheaval since the introduction of cable TV". 

The advent of Smart TVs likely will have substantial implication for the hotels most of whom are in thraldom to a handful of content providers who have a lopsided (in their favor) arrangement with hospitality companies.

The high cost of renting movies in hotel rooms in austere times has steered guests' hands away from the remote as evidenced by declining revenues in publicly traded in-room providers but more than potentially reducing costs, SmartTvs will  provide far more programming choices for guests a fact that has, in the recent past, prompted tech savvy travel blog Gadling.com to pen a piece on getting around the limited fare on tap on a hotel TV. Coupled with a trend towards downsizing in TVs hoteliers can look to providing significantly better value for a lot less.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.

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