Is Smart TV Platform Fragmentation a Good Thing?


Talk about fast-moving markets. CES hadn’t even officially started this week when LG announced it was launching its own Smart TV platform. By my count, this means at least 10 platforms currently vying for consumer, developer and TV OEM attention.

Ten is officially a crowd, so with yet another smart TV platform in the wild, I tweeted this was a sign of a fragmented market. My tweet, however, caused well-known digital home blogger Alexander Grundner to ask, “what’s so wrong with choice?

He has a point. Choice is, by definition, better than no choice at all, particularly when we’re talking about creativity and new market evolution.

But is too much choice a bad thing? Certainly if you’re a resource-constrained developer, having to make a bet between 10 or so different platforms can be make or break decision. And the stakes are even higher for TV OEMs, where choosing a platform that fails could mean losing share in a hyper-competitive market.

And what about the platform players themselves? As we’ve seen with smartphones, in time, two to three platforms will see the majority of market share, while others will be forced to eat table scraps.

But all downsides considered, the alternative is still worse. As we saw with the connected living room space earlier this decade, lack of competition leads to lack of innovation. That end result is decaying platforms, as we’ve seen with Tru2Way and Microsoft’s Windows Media Center Extender.

And sure, what comes after fragmentation is consolidation and all its associated pain. But consolidation is a natural part of market evolution, and as we’ve seen with the HP acquisition of Palm in smartphones, sometimes consolidation can create more viable choices long-term.

So in the end, I have to say I agree with Alexander. Choice is good. Let’s buckle up and enjoy the ride.

To see my analysis of the implications of smart TV market fragmentation, check out my weekly update at GigaOM Pro.

Image source: flickr user Elsie esq.

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