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Samsung should make a not-Apple TV

Samsung has been most successful when it's made products specifically to fill gaps in Apple's lineup. When you couldn't get an iPhone or Verizon, Samsung made sure you could get a not-an-iPhone on Verizon. When you couldn't get an iPad that was smaller than 9.7-inches or an iPhone that was bigger than 4-inches, Samsung made sure you could get not-an-iPad at 7-inches and not-an-iPhone at up to 6. They were never as polished as what Apple eventually released, but they existed and people bought them. In some cases, in droves.

When Apple started making those products, however, and there was no longer a need for not-an-iPhone or not-an-iPad, Samsung faltered. While the Apple Watch is coming this April and the Apple Car might follow one day, the Apple television doesn't seem to be leaving the labs any time soon. So, maybe that's an opportunity for Samsung to make a not-Apple television?

Yes, Samsung already makes "televisions", but they're not making televisions. They're doing what everyone else is doing, gunking up their gadgets and muddling their marketing. They're also making a lot of mistakes.

Last week there were two separate controversies swirling around Samsung's "television" products. The first revolved around the admirably candid yet terrifying language used in their "always listening" voice-control system:

Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.

Samsung updated the language it uses and posted it on Samsung Tomorrow (opens in new tab), but by then a second controversy had surfaced. This one involved the injection of advertising into private video streams. Samsung told The Guardian:

We are aware of a situation that has caused some Smart TV users in Australia to experience programme interruption in the form of an advertisement. This seems to be caused by an error, and we are currently conducting a full and thorough investigation into the cause as our top priority. This situation has so far been reported only in Australia. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience experienced by our customers.

Televisions are a hugely competitive space, often with razor-thin margins. The pressure to extract more money from customers is what leads to things like data harvesting, partnerships, and ad insertion models. Samsung is hardly alone in that regard. And that's the problem — Not only is Samsung playing the same game as every other major manufacturer on the planet, they're stumbling while doing it. So, why not try something else?

Apple's customers are among the best customers in the world. We care more about value than cost. We have iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, and Macs, and will soon have Apple Watches. What we don't have is an Apple television. We don't have a simple, terrific panel to enjoy all our content on.

Instead of microphones or ad intercepts, instead of curves or Tizen-tie-ins, imagine Samsung just made a line of premium televisions that did nothing more nor less than provide a fantastic display and a slew of HDMI ports.

Samsung's strength has never been software or ecosystems. It's been panels and components. If they avoided the former and doubled down on the latter, they could take advantage of a gap in Apple's current product line and make something extremely appealing to Apple's customers.

I don't think they'd ever do it, but I know I'd buy it if they did.

In case you missed it:

  • Our ongoing redesign is ongoing! We updated slide shows last time, now we're updating articles like this. As always, your thoughts are appreciated.
  • Apple Car. Get used to seeing those words.
  • Our experts column was terrific again this week, with Steve Aquino reminding us that Accessibility really is for everyone. Likewise Maddy Myers' backpage on iOS gaming culture.
  • Up next: Jessie Char and Kevin Michaluk!
  • I can confirm Serenity, Ally, Peter, and Georgia have all, indeed, trolled me in iMessage just like this.

From around the web:

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  • Now that Apple being doomed is boring again, Google being doomed seems to be the new narrative: Don't be Google, Google, Mighty Now, but Not Forever.
  • Speaking of Google, credit where its due for doing this Android security Q&A.
Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

34 Comments
  • Still waiting for the Samsung announcement about their new car project.
  • They are already car busines...
  • I don't know where to put the comments about the redesign so I'm putting it here - Whats the obsession with making the main photo so big that it takes up the whole screen? I'm all for larger graphics but CNNs new design makes the site annoyingly painful to use and now you guys have gone and done the same thing. Why use half the page for one graphic? Too big is too big and thats too big.
  • Not a fan of this new format myself.
  • I agree. Too many sites are doing this now. I stopped reading CNN, as it's just too hard to find the information I want to read. I also find that the slideshow-like articles on iMore cannot be captured by Evernote clipper.
  • I used to go to CNN three or four times per day and imore several times per day as well, but since they changed to the new format I have not been there at all. I guess Ill add imore to the list as well. I have begun using a newsreader for most of my sites since blogs started doing this. Its strips out all of the annoyingly large pictures and adverts. Not sure who thought the DUPLO look was the new black but oh, well. If enough people do that won't they be losing ad revenue?
  • And I thought I was the only one...
  • If Apple makes a decent TV it will be because they get Samsung to make it for them. Samsung is so much better than Apple in a thousand product categories. Don't think Apple is going to win at TV just because they're Apple. Apple is winning at phones and nothing else right now and they need Samsung for that success! Fortunate for Apple, phones are the biggest thing going. Otherwise Apple kind of pokes around.
  • Apple is also doing better in the PC department than windows or Linux based systems. I'm hoping windows X, er... 10, is the upgrade to 7 that I have been looking for. I do wish they would have just named it 9 though. Sent from the iMore App
  • Again, you crack me up! This article is more about Samsung than Apple. I think you hate Samsung so much that you actually love them. You enjoy writing about them more than writing about Apple! Where do you get your information, anyway? Samsung is regarded as one of the world's best TV manufactures. And like the rest of the media, you blow the whole "always listening" voice recognition out of proportion. The third party it sends your voice to is a computer that tries to make the whole system work better the more you use it, by analyzing your individual voice. You find that "terrifying??" Give me a break. Did you really think the third party was a group of people sitting around, making note of every little thing you said, trying to steal your secrets?? LOL Then you put down Samsung for making TVs that do "nothing more nor less than provide a fantastic display." Hello!! It's a TV! People sit and stare at them for hours on end. Seems like the display is the most important part of a TV! Seriously, man. You have some serious issues.
  • "And like the rest of the media, you blow the whole "always listening" voice recognition out of proportion. The third party it sends your voice to is a computer that tries to make the whole system work better the more you use it, by analyzing your individual voice." Then why do they warn about personal and sensitive information? Maybe we should ask where you get your info from.......
  • The same reason GE warns you not to use your hair dryer in the shower... Just to cover all the legal bases. Common practice. Smart practice.
  • Yeah, right.........smh. Did you make up the story about the third party computer?:)
  • Read...
    http://money.cnn.com/2015/02/09/technology/security/samsung-smart-tv-pri... In the Samsung privacy policy it says, "Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition." That's basically saying, "Guess what!? If you talk when the mic is on, it will capture everything you say!" Thanks Mr. Obvious. They just have to tell that to the people who might use their hair dryer in the shower. It's called full disclosure before the fact. Common practice to keep people from trying to sue you over something you assumed was obvious to everyone. As soon as you leave it out, someone will take advantage of you. As for the third party, "Samsung does not retain voice data or sell it to third parties," the company said in a statement. "If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature ... the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV." Now, is anyone really terrified by that? I'm not.
  • You can treat any of your TVs as just a big panel with a slew of HDMI inputs; I cannot recall the last time I actually used any of the built-in apps on my main TV. The controversy over the listening suggests Samsung may be going backwards in this area. Samsung's problem is that even in "dumb" TVs, software is becoming not just a differentiator, but a requirement.. A built-in Netflix app, for example, has become table stakes for even moderately expensive sets. I never use the built-in apps on my main TV, but I do all the time on the other TV in the house. Doubling down on hardware only is going to hurt them in all of these non-home-theater purchases; they need to have *some* software ready, unless they want to cede huge swathes of the TV market. Samsung's problem is that they are a tremendously capable hardware manufacturer that has difficulty thinking through all the implications of their software choices. Their hardware is already pretty darn good; they need to get better at their software choices.
  • So Samsung should make a tv to counter a product that does not even exist yet and has been a unicorn in the tech world for at least 4 years? 0_o
  • Yeah, man... He's either written an article about Samsung, or about an Apple product that is basically a fairy tale. I'm not sure which it is.
  • A bit ridiculous...
  • After reading this article I m really out of words... Samsung is just not another TV maker .. They make the worlds finest TVs .. They are the pioneers of it .. So comparing that to product which you thought is in apple lab (nobody knows )is atrocious .. Shows how much of a
    fanboy you are ... And who are you to determine or say samsung products are not polished.. Samsung Galaxy s2 was a great product for the time .. I had one along with the iPhone... I never have any issues with anybody else articles here which is why is I still have the app but this guy is something else . tempts me to write a comment every time.. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • It's kinda funny when you mentioned the word pioneer. did you know that Samsung stole pioneer intellectual patents and made pioneer TV went out of business. Samsung even lost in court when pioneer sued Samsung but legal battle took time and pioneer just lost so much and couldn't sustain in business because of Samsung.
  • Where the hell do you come up with this stuff Rene??? Comparing Samsung TV's with all the others in the market is comical, Samsung makes the finest TV in the world.... I can count on you to come up with a anti Samsung article at least once every two weeks. Very Sad..
  • It's sad when people knew the real korean culture and business practices. Korean build high quality products but copied the one that succeeded ( phones, TV, cars, even ship making) pioneer TV is one example that Samsung screwed and ruin that company.
  • Why? So Apple can innovate/invent it?
  • For someone who wants "samsung to talk less about apple" you sure love to beat your chest and write about samsung a lot. I mean damn I get the fanboy in you, but lately you are on a whole other level. So now it is all about products that may or may not come from apple that samsung should replicate? Not to mention samsung has some of the best TV's out there. Come on now, this is a new low, even for you....
  • Rene > fanboy Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I love my Samsung F8500 60" plasma TV, it has the best picture I've ever seen. Contrary to the previous dozen or so comments here, I only see Rene highlighting Samsung's many successes, mentioning one controversy (first reported elsewhere, and only quoted here), listing the challenges Samsung faces, and making recommendations on how to differentiate their products in a mostly homogenous TV market. The bias / fanboy memes just seem bizarre.
    Unlike Dev from tipb's comment above, I think there is a good size market in home theatre for a high-priced, high quality TV like mine without the built-in extras that are superfluous to the excellent viewing experience. A price that was a few dollars less than I paid would make it more attractive to tech-savvy people who have other devices better at doing video-conferencing. Voice command is too intrusive for a TV that can already be controlled by a backlit remote, or a smart-phone app.
    They don't have to make all their TVs smart. That's what everyone else is doing. That's what Rene is espousing here.
  • I don't disagree that there is a good-sized market there...but people like you (and me) who fit their screens in a larger system already ignore the built-in software. It does not help Samsung to include it for us, but it does not hurt them with us, either*, and its exclusion might in fact hurt them in the lower end of the market, or just be difficult for them to maintain the different SKUs. I doubt a software-free version would be a few dollars less; it would be the same, or even more if people like you and I really had some pent up demand there. Except, of course, for actively intrusive and annoying features, like (apparently) this voice control debacle.
  • I disagree to some extent. Unless they include a low latency input or two, smart tv software can hurt the performance of things like the PS4 and XBone. Sent from the iMore App
  • Why are we talking about Samsung in Apple website
    What world you are living in "When Apple started making those products, however, and there was no longer a need for not-an-iPhone or not-an-iPad" . really dude....
  • Yeah I don't get it either. He makes comments like this then wonders why so many can no longer take him seriously. Talk like this spreads bad PR on what I consider a good company with some great products. Others would agree with me. This perpetuating myth that Apple is the end all be all of everything they do is absolute horse crap. Every minute detail of possible problems with any other product or platform is blown up and those problems that plague many Apple users is brushed by the wayside as par for the course and determined unnecessary for daily use or not common enough and ergo not a deal breaker of any kind. Sad that you can't come here for any sort of real hard look at Apple without the ultra polishing of the good parts and the misdirection from the bad. Some sites may be over critical towards Apple in the most unwarranted ways, but I find this site is the exact opposite. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Yeah ! Some poeple just dont grow up.
  • I only care about the screen. But I don't think they can ignore the apps for the mainstream or even marketing purposes. I do wonder why Rene cares though. I never cared too much what oems do. Have we ever seen an article on here saying what dell should do for pcs or what kind of bloat they should have? I think the same of Samsung. Instead let's focus on Google, ms, or apple. These guys are the important ones. Maybe we can read more about the apple car. Lol. It's welcome pr if nothing else for apple. It could be worse though. At least the dumb rumor isn't about apple entering the fast food business. Sent from the iMore App
  • I have honestly come to like apple products, as i have android products, but whole "not an iPad, not an iPhone" thing is a bit smug wouldn't you say? Sent from the iMore App
  • Hey Fanboy AKA Rene, Why just stopping with TVs and Phones? Samsung also makes, Empire Stat building size Preludes,
    Burj Khalifa and similar size buildings,
    Large Exavators,
    Forklifts,
    ...