Smart TV Alliance

A new Alliance for standardization of a Smart TV app platform

As was to be expected, a consortium has now been established to standardize a platform for apps on TVs. Using the motto “build once, run everywhere”, the Smart TV Alliance aims to create a single cross industry platform making it easier for customers to share apps across multiple TVs and encourage more developers.

The founders of the Alliance, which was announced on June 20 2012, are LG, Toshiba and TPVision (who took over Philips’ TV branch). Other members (contributors) are Mstar, a chip manufacturer, and Obigo, a mobile browser supplier


The alliance already has a draft version 2 specification.that describes which parts of which existing standards are used in the Smart TV Applications API: HTML5, A/V streaming and DRM. Apparently the participants approved a version 1 on June 14 2012, 6 days before they publicly launched the alliance. The draft v2 spec and a software development kit (SDK) can be downloaded from the
alliance website.
The TV is an obvious next screen for consumers to expect apps to run on. Since an app platform requires a rich ecosystem of hardware and softwaremakers to be atttractive, the objective of this alliance is certainly justified. The question then is: why does it consist of only three TV manufacturers and two software platform developers, and no app developers? Why didn’t big Asian TV manufacturers and settopbox makers join?

Some companies like Panasonic have a proprietary platform and their own appstore (which reminds of the walled garden web solutions of a decade ago, unsuccessful against non-fenced, open, solutions). Then, of course there’s another standard contender – Google TV – and Samsung, Sony and LG already showed or introduced Google TV products.
Google TV has two modes: android apps optimized for TV, and web apps: html5,css3 based interactive websites. And indeed, Google provides the equivalent of an SDK for these web apps. If only part of the mobile app makers convert their offering to the tv, there will be a wealth of apps.
In this context the annual fees or $125,000 for a board membership or even $25,000 for a contributor membership look too high for the privilege of joining a standards war that may be lost before it begins. Or is this a case of generals fighting the previous war?