Will iDTV Replace Traditional TVs?

Date Posted:28 August 2012 

IDTV, or Integrated Digital Television, is revolutionising the way we watch TV. It’s basically a television set with a built-in set top box and Internet connectivity, so you can use the Internet while you watch TV. The latest spin off of iDTV is a mini set top box the size of a ten-cent piece that plugs in and gives you free TV on iPad and iPhone devices.

But whether iDTV will replace the traditional television set remains to be seen. Certainly there are many people, particularly Gen Ys, who like to watch TV on the go, while participating in all the other forms of communication and entertainment they enjoy on their mobile devices. But there is another group who prefer their TV to be a more theatrical experience, enjoyed in the comfort of their own homes, and the traditional television set is undergoing huge changes to cater for this audience as well.

Screens are getting larger, thinner and borderless and migrating up the walls to become multiple monitors that form a wall-size picture. They are being coupled with high definition surround sound systems and home theatre seating, complete with drink holders. 3D TVs are now a reality too -- although they are still tied to those hokey glasses for the moment at least -- and ultra definition is well on the way.

The home theatre viewer enjoys a certain amount of interaction in the form of electronic menus and the ability to pause, rewind and record live programs. TV manufacturers are also experimenting with voice-recognition software that will allow you to change channels with voice commands. But television viewing for the dedicated couch potato, in combination with watching videos, is still largely a sit-back-and-enjoy kind of experience, rather than an interactive one.

Still, the Internet connectivity of iDTV has huge potential. Apple is toying with an iTV that supports wireless streaming and synergises with other Apple devices like iPhones and iPads. This is in line with the trend towards social TV, where interaction is the key.

Social TV is the union of television and social media, where people can watch TV while chatting to each other about the program via Twitter and Facebook. iDTV makes this possible. Free-to-air television now encourages this interaction by inviting viewers to comment via Twitter during talk shows and news broadcasts, and advertisers are looking at similar ways to become more interactive with such audiences.

A time may come when TV programmes are made solely with viewer interaction in mind. Beyond reality TV, it would be ‘real’ TV, where viewers participate remotely in live quiz shows for real prizes or air their dirty laundry on Dr. Phil-style confessionals.

But it’s hard to predict the future of television when the present is changing so fast. Perhaps the desire for a home theatre experience, in combination with the demand for more portable interactive TV, will lead to the creation of a single device. Perhaps it will be a portable computer/TV that you can take with you anywhere and use to communicate with anyone, but that is also capable of producing a large screen, 3D, surround sound experience for those who prefer passive entertainment to active involvement.