The living room's been something like a holy grail for electronics manufacturers for decades. It's the place where we spend hours every day sitting in front of our TVs, passively flipping channels and watching ads. Even as our smartphones and tablets vie for our attention, TV dominates: Americans still spend an average of 4 hours, 38 minutes a day watching the boob tube. Netflix, on the other hand, which is so popular as to command as much as half the US’s internet bandwidth, only commands 11 hours of our attention per month.
Set top box creators have come from every angle, vying for a piece of this lucrative pie. Roku, Boxee, Western Digital, Apple, Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, TuneIn — on and on the list goes, companies looking to get onto your TV. But these devices create as many problems as they solve, though, adding new remotes, inputs, and interfaces into a viewing experience that's supposed to be simple.
Theoretically, that puts TV manufacturers at an enormous advantage: if Samsung can design the whole interface, from Netflix to your DVR, it should be able to create a seamless experience that improves upon the disjointed universe of set-top boxes. Sony or Vizio could overlay content on top of your TV, so you can watch a show while reading tweets about it; Samsung already has a great ESPN app that just runs a ticker below whatever you're watching. Your set-top box can't do that, since it's on its own input and takes over the whole screen. Just about every manufacturer bought into this logic, and over the last couple of years store shelves have flooded with internet-connected, content-streaming "Smart TVs." But each of these companies has tried to develop its own interface, its own style, and every attempt has fallen flat. Smart TV interfaces are almost universally slow, clunky, and unnecessarily complex.