Good Hardware, Bad Software
The idea of this post came about when I was using my girlfriend’s dad’s new Samsung smartTV. The thing looks beautiful, it’s 55″, thin as a razor, and has a great picture. The box and manual both tout the ability to be connected online via cable or wifi and surf the web, to download Netflix, Pandora, and a host of other apps, and to generally never have to leave your couch for anything. To assist you in your one stop internet needs, the tv comes with a remote as well as a wireless keyboard with built in touchpad. I was helping him set things up and was marveling at the quality of the tv, the depth of the colors, the aesthetics of the design, etc etc.
Once we had the thing physically set up, cables and all, came the part where I would connect to wireless and download all the fun apps. At this point I felt like I was trying to walk through mud and my hands had been replaced by those huge foam hulk hands.
The culprit was the software, it was just BAD. It was clunky, not very intuitive, the UI was jumbled, and it really gave me, someone who thinks of himself as technically proficient (though I’m probably not), a decent amount of trouble. It got me thinking about the quality standard of software and how it relates to hardware. The focal point for tvs is still on the hardware. People want thin, they want big, they want a great picture, they want cheaper, and they want connectivity. This Samsung checked all those boxes (maybe not cheaper) pretty well, and really was some great hardware. I think that really good hardware can still forgive bad software in some cases, especially when it does new things. Obviously the smart tv industry is just getting started, and there is a lot of room for growth in software interfaces, but I was surprised by how bad it was.
The idea for this post was solidified when Apple released iOS 7 recently. I’ve played around with it a bit, and I think it’s a great redesign, and a good example of how Apple has used great software to complement their hardware. Though they have obviously been huge innovators in consumer electronics and hardware, it has been their software experience that has set them apart as a great product.
We’re going to be getting to the point where the competing hardware sets (be it phone, tv, computer) are more and more similar and the differentiator is the software. I’ve formed the opinion now that Apple can make a strong move into the TV space and have a pretty large impact. I’ve always felt they were going to do this, but I wasn’t sure how innovative they would be, and how successful. Their name alone will sell units, but I couldn’t really think of how they would blow the smart tv game wide open. I still don’t think they will, but I think there is enough to make better on the software side, that they can easily become a market force. Now I haven’t used too many other smart tvs and I may be missing a great set, but from personal experience there is a lot of room for improvement.