Connected TVs: A new frontier for developers

One in five new TVs can connect to the Internet. For now, almost no one is watching. But that will change

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Closed-loop apps: Closed-loop apps allow you to stream content from one device to the TV screen. The simplest example is Apple's AirPlay wireless streaming technology that allows you to play movies stored on your iPad or iPhone on your TV screen via the Apple TV. (Apple is bringing AirPlay to Macs with the forthcoming OS X Mountain Lion.) iTunes can stream content from a Mac or Windows PC today to a TV over a network connection via an Apple TV as well. Other manufacturers support the Digital Living Room Network Alliance (DLNA) protocol to provide closed-loop viewing, but its implementation so far in TVs, DVD players, computers, and mobile devices is highly inconsistent and often incompatible.

Who's in charge?
There's no app store for TV. As a developer, you have to work with the manufacturers, who'll give you the SDK you'll need to get started. If you're going to place a bet on a manufacturer, look to Samsung and Sony because of their volume, while Roku and Boxee are the thought leaders in set-top boxes, counsels Hookway.

Google TV is the most open platform, although it's still in its infancy, "and of course, watch Apple. The next significant step may be the opening up of the current Apple TV product to app development. (It is currently closed.) The announcement many are waiting for, though, is of an actual TV set," he says -- a common subject for Apple rumormongers this year.

In fact, that fractured reality today leads to another prerequisite for TVs iPhone moment: When developers can write to a few major platforms, instead of 10 or more, connected TV apps will take off. We could even see a mirror of the smartphone world, in which two platforms -- iOS and Android -- are dominant.

In Europe, where connected TV use is much higher than in the United States, people are already watching programming that was designed to be interactive. In the Netherlands, there are game shows with no contestants; everyone is playing at home via an app. If you win, your reward is your name on the screen, DisplaySearch's Gray says.

I'm not sure how compelling a TV experience that would be, but that's not the point. Connected TV is evolving, and the winners will be the developers who have the imagination to use their tools to enhance the medium in compelling ways. For now, the market isn't huge, but in five years it could radically expand the opportunities for developers.

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This article, "Connected TVs: A new frontier for developers," was originally published by Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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