When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you make TV sets...you get the picture.
Samsung sees a world where TV will rise again, recapturing the attention that wandered over to the Internet and stayed because the conversation was better.
In his keynote address at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Thursday afternoon, Boo-Keun Yoon, president and general manager of Samsung's visual display business, predicted the return of the viewers.
"TV will once again become the dominant and central piece of technology in human life," he declared.
Having lived through a decade and a half without the Internet, I find that scenario rather unappealing. TV is a one-way medium that promotes passive consumption and doesn't do much for one's health. The Internet has its downsides too, but at least it's participatory.
Based on Nielsen's estimate that the average American watches over four hours of television per day, a sixty-five year old will have spent nine full years of his or her life just watching. TV doesn't need to be much more dominant.
Samsung and its partners in the media business, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, don't see it that way. Thankfully, their vision isn't entirely retrograde. They want to remake TV in the Internet's image, without the rough edges.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt talked about reimagining TV with easy Web-like navigation, search, and personalization features. You know, like the Internet is today, except with a billing system and copy controls behind it.
Yoon spoke of "a new level of choice and control for consumers." Britt said, "Our customers call the shots." That sounds more like Internet than TV. On the Net, you have choice, control, freedom to search for anything, download anything, run your own server, run ad blocking software, you name it.
What does it mean to call the shots on a TV? Maybe a menu with a list of allowed options? A greater selection of channels?
I don't want to knock Samsung's vision too much. Really, Samsung is the most forward-looking consumer electronics company at the moment, with the possible exception of Apple. It's putting apps on its TVs and has wisely placed its bet on Android.
But Samsung's vision remains mired in devices. Yoon spoke of allowing consumers to easily enjoy and share content anytime, anywhere, on any Samsung screen.
In a networked world where there's seamless sharing, the make of the screen wouldn't matter.
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