Opinion: LG made a great doormat with their new webOS Smart TV

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It’s 3:00AM in Wollongong. My phone’s alarm rings, causing painful vibration on its nest of coins. Instinctively, I turn it off. I forgot that instinct can be right sometimes.

I loved webOS. In its well-documented downfall, the OS broke my heart. I bought a Pre 2, for pure love of the UI and what Palm envisioned. Then, at the start of 2013, I bought an HP Veer, in the hope that I could somehow still latch onto the dream that I was slowly forgetting. But that’s over now.

I’m finally happy with just having an iPhone, even if its multitasking UI recreates the worst aspects of the webOS multitasking UI, while forgetting its overall functionality in organising your applications.

But then LG bought webOS. And what they did with it is quite commendable. But that’s not the point. The execution is brilliant, but the theory is all wrong.

lg_webos_tv_1_large_verge_super_wideIn the age of refinement, LG have today finally unveiled what is essentially a TV with Wi-Fi, a few apps, and a nice UI. It looks truly beautiful, and I’m sure it’ll be a much better experience compared to its competitors own approaches. But that’s it. And I guess that’s what’s disappointing about this new, pathetic age of the ‘Smart TV’. It’ll always just be the front-page of your TV, just getting in the way of what you actually want to do, what you actually want to experience. The doormat that you’ll have to step over, time and time again. And that’s all webOS is in this new lineup.

In fact, unless you’re a geek, LG’s new skin on top of the TV, while slick, is just another barrier to entry. Now instead of setup meaning just tuning your channels in, you’ll now need to input your Wi-Fi password, probably a few accounts (your NetFlix login), untick that box which will sign you up to an LG newsletter, select some apps for the front-page. Then, likely, you’ll have to use a Wii-mote. No, not your actual Wii-mote, but another LG remote that’s probably built from the same components but, of course (thanks to technology), is proprietary. And you’ll pick it up, wave it around like a fool to select Live TV or HDMI. And after which you’ll never see that webOS UI again.

And that’s what I’ll never understand about Smart TV’s. They’re all just a fence in-front of TV or your secondary-device. Even the LG keynote showed that a great feature of their supposed ‘Smart TV’ was that it could open the PlayStation HDMI input easily, through the horizontal app drawer. But surely they see that as a flaw in their plan, right? If a secondary-box is already in the homes of most customers, how is a Smart TV UI anywhere close to innovative? Especially when it offers the same, or in the case of webOS a smaller ecosystem of applications.

Surely the smart thing to do is to just automatically open the PlayStation 3’s HDMI input when it’s turned on, rather than forcing you to find it in some new UI.

BeanBird is a cool idea, sure. And I would have much preferred that to my current LG TV’s bulky 2008 graphics. At least with that 2008 TV I just turned on the TV, pressed Tune on the remote, then switched over to my TV and HDMI inputs. It never got in the way. And if it did, it was because it had to. Not because the company had some desire to control your experience after your purchase, but because it simply had to.

5957374681_085aa0a63e_bPeople don’t care about apps on TV, especially this fragmented ‘future’ where developers have to code for each brands crappy OS. People want a good TV. And if it comes with ABC iView, that’s great. But my God LG, if this thing is anything like other Smart TV’s, where you support it for a month then move on, then what’s the point.

It’s 2014. If someone wanted to stream movies and TV shows to their TV, they probably already did. To me, this just seems like a cool in-store demonstration and nothing more.

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