500 channels – something's on, but what?


iPhone cases, first in a series

Here at the 2014 International CES, I can see plenty of the usual suspects: iPhone cases, healthy living gadgets, iPhone cases, superb audio speakers, iPhone cases, nifty new electronic toys, and iPhone cases. But by searching carefully, looking in hidden corners, I can still find the kind of TV news that we care about.

One recurring theme is the issue of discovery. If you subscribe to Netflix, or Hulu Plus, or a zillion-channel pay-TV service, you’ve got thousands and thousands of viewing choices available. The trick is to make those choices easy to find when you want them or even when you don’t know what you want. Whoever solves this problem and gets the TV/video industry to line up behind the solution will control the screen.

At its press conference here, Sharp offered its version with a smart TV that can integrate all three of those services and several more besides. Two hours later, Dish showed off its latest Hopper version with a lot of the same features, displayed a bit differently. Those are just two examples; so far the only thing all these providers have in common is that they’re all trying to address the problem.

I wandered the exhibit floors and found more companies taking a stab at discovery. Yahoo’s smart TV was, well, another that looked like what the TV manufacturers were offering. One day, someone’s going to figure out an elegant solution, and until then, I’ll keep looking for it.