Mossberg: TVs are still too complicated, and it’s not your fault

“Last Thursday, my beloved Pioneer Elite 50-inch plasma HDTV suddenly died,” Walt Mossberg writes for The Verge. “I had owned it for nearly a decade, and when it was new it was regarded by many as the best TV on the market. I distinctly recall Steve Jobs recommending it to me, among others, and I sprang for it even though its roughly $5,000 price (with optional side-panel speakers) put a much bigger dent in our family’s budget than it had in his.”

“So I set out to snare a new TV,” Mossberg writes. “But it wasn’t as easy a task as you might think it would be, even for a longtime tech reviewer.”

“We came home with a 55-inch LG OLED B series TV,” Mossberg writes. “I kept thinking while being barely helped at Best Buy, and then stumbling to explain the UI to my very smart wife, that it was no wonder that my old TV advisor, Steve Jobs, thought toward the end of his life in 2011 that the TV as a device was ripe for disruption.”

Muhc more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The UI and, indeed, the whole TV paradigm screams for Apple to truly disrupt it. That’s why last year’s half-baked, beta-esque, non-4K, Remote app-less Apple TV was such a disappointment. (We still can’t believe Apple shipped such an obviously unfinished product.) Here’s hoping Apple has something game-changing up its collective sleeve to be revealed in time for Christmas this year!


      1. This. I picked up an LG 55EC9300 OLED about 20 months ago for $4500. Even though you can get the newer model for $1700 now, I don’t regret it at all. Best picture quality I’ve ever seen. I would happily pay the 5k (or 4k for the curved version) of the 65″ OLED 4kHDR set.

        I’m also actually quite happy with the magic remote and the UI. It could assuredly be better, but after using someone else’s Samsung for a couple of days, the WebOS interface on the LG seems absolutely futuristic.

    1. I had a plasma 50 Panasonic for many years. Needed to
      upgrade to HD 4000 whatever, made me get 55 OLED from
      LG (also from Best Buy [delivery service was superb]). Best
      TV I’ve ever had !!! The higher definition makes watching
      Apple TV and reading iBooks much better. After 9 months,
      the software, controls, adjustments are to some extent too
      involved,confusing, not user friendly. If I spend $10,000
      for speakers and $25,000 for tube amplifiers, I might
      hire someone to adjust my TV. So far I’m happy.

    2. A couple of years ago, I bought two 60″ LG plasma HDTVs for less than $600 each. Great picture, dark blacks/high contrast, high refresh rate for sports. The only downside is higher power consumption.

      But plasmas are becoming increasingly difficult to find. My next TV (hopefully at least several years from now) will most likely be an OLED UHDTV. I always buy behind the technology curve – it saves a *lot* of money and gives the technology time to settle down.

  1. I think that if the studios and cable companies didn’t have such tight control over programming Apple would have had a terrific Apple TV already. The issue remains what programming you get and for how much. Apple doesn’t want to pay the studios and cable companies to much and have to charge the public more than what cable companies do now for programming. It doesn’t make sense. That’s Apple’s road block. Sure there’s lots of content but when you get companies like sling packaging content and charging just as much as cable companies do for channels that you don’t want. It doesn’t make sense either. What really needs to happen is an ale’ cart programming where the consumer can pick any channel at a sensible price that would add up to less than cable packages which put junk content that only a few people would want to watch. That’s what really would change things. You would have less channels but all the content that you would actually want to watch. Imagine every channel that would have something that you actually liked. No shopping channels, no religious channels, no commercial advertising channels. Don’t have to spend several minutes skipping over them just to get to what you want to watch.

  2. In a number of keynotes, Jobs and Cook spoke about the 1,000 great ideas they had, and the difficulty of saying no to 997 in order to focus on the 3 they could best curate.

    The music businesses were easy to corral with iTunes because they were financially modest. The TV enterprises have more money and won’t be played into losing their cash cow. So, that places taking over TV down the list.

    1. What is worse is that the music business felt (and still feels) robbed of all of the leverage they had, by Apple. In other words, they essentially gave up all the family jewels and are at the mercy of Apple, who is now the dominant retailer of their product and can completely control everything.

      Film studios are essentially big parents of music labels, and after watching how music business spiraled without hope, and then how Apple swooped in and took over, they are determined not to give in at any cost.

      The worst thing about it all is, the self-obsessed idiots running those music labels, as well as even more self-obsessed idiots running their parent movie studios, still don’t realise that Apple is there to save their asses. They fail to understand that Jobs sigle-handedly saved their asses; instead, from their idiotic minds, it seems like a complete capitulation to Jobs, which must not be repeated with the film and TV industry.

      Those little record label execs continue to allow their own grossly inflated egos to obscure the interests of their own industry, never mind their customers and users.

  3. Good take, MDN.

    And though Apple may think that apps are the future of TV, the market appears to disagree. Just as painful if not moreso than simply subscribing to 200+ channels & TiVo. Tivo offers the time shift you need with an interface that makes it reasonable to find content.

    What would be even better? Imagine an intelligent search such as Internet Movie DataBase offers, with a la carte purchase option. Guess who owns IMDB?

    1. As for apps being the future of TV, I think at this time, it’s not so much the market as the short-sighted entertainment industry that disagrees. They are their own worst enemy.

      I think the market (meaning consumers) is more than ready… as evidenced by the ever growing number of cord-cutters. Who, btw, have the entertainment industry very, very concerned.

      1. But Apple doesn’t offer a cost benefit.

        What is the difference between subscribing to 250 channels from Cable and installing 10 apps that each require a subscription and in total cost just as much?

        I don’t see the advantage at all, just more hassle for less total content options.

  4. i want a TV to be a dumb screen. I’ll plug in my own ‘boxes’ to get the content I want. Just give me a quality display and a lot of ports to hook up my goodies.

      1. Choices are many, but the matrix of options for consumers in any product seldom includes pure performance enhancements without also forced bundling of the non-essential frills that you really didn’t want.

        TVs are marketed to entice the upsell.

        To buy the best TV, most people end up with a unit where they pay for all the internal bits because it’s still cheaper than a bombproof no-frills professional monitor. For example, when’s the last time you saw a wall display in your neighbor’s home? Or even the modest version for office use?

  5. TV used to be simple and uncomplicated with low quantity but high quality programming, compared to what we have today. It’s getting worse. While paid TV is producing good stories and content, free TV essentially is trash. However pay walls are making access more difficult. I don’t see it getting easier. I see it becoming more difficult. If Apple can do something, I hope it’s soon.

  6. A few months ago I bought a Sony ‘smart’ TV. The display is great and the built in sound is acceptable ( although I feed it to external speakers ), but the ‘smart’ aspect is unbelievably bad.

    The CPU that drives it is painfully slow and will sometimes respond to a key press with a “Please Wait” and then never actually does anything else. The interface is hopelessly inconsistent, sometimes offering a QWERTY keyboard and at other times presenting a keyboard with the letters in alphabetical order. If you pause a streamed programme, it is likely too lock up after a few minutes and refuse to continue. It will play recorded video via a USB chip in several formats, but refuses to recognise some commonly encountered formats that play perfectly well on the Sony DVD player that I bought at the same time. It comes across as a sort of Frankenstein TV which was assembled from parts of other TVs, with no attention being paid to how it all fits together.

    My preference would be to dispense with the ‘smart’ aspects of that TV and instead use it as a dumb screen in conjunction with something like an Apple TV, but Apple TV is of little value here in the UK because there isn’t anywhere near enough compelling content available in our region and Apple TV isn’t able to stream from 4oD, which is the second most important TV streaming service in the UK after BBC iPlayer.

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