Ten years ago, the most common way to connect to the Internet at home was via a PC or a laptop. Now, connectivity at home is increasingly being supplemented by tablets, smartphones, and other media devices, although PCs/laptops still dominate. Consumer electronics device manufacturers cashing in on this shift are offering Internet-ready capabilities in many of their devices. Although the notion of “connected devices” can be quite broad, we focused specifically on game consoles, Blu-ray players, and high-definition (HD) TVs in our recently published Forrester Research Connected Devices Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (US). Here is a brief commentary on each of these device segments:
Game consoles: In 2012, the game console manufacturers experienced declining sales. Unlike in the past, when the introduction of a new console generally saw significant uptake in sales, Nintendo’s Wii U (launched in Q4 2012) is not expected to hit the peak sales of the original Wii. We believe that this trend will be seen more broadly in the game console industry. This is largely (though not exclusively) driven by the availability of low-cost/"freemium" titles on smartphones and tablets, which fulfill the gaming needs of the casual gamer — and have a negative impact on the console market. However, we still expect the console market to see moderate growth. By 2017, the majority of consoles will be “connected” to an IP connection because consoles are multi-purpose and allow users to do many activities online such as rent/buy movies and TV shows, purchase games, watch streaming videos, and listen to streaming music.
The concept of traditional TV watching needs to be redefined. The TV has evolved from a passive device with a single content source to a simple, large-display screen on which numerous activities come together. In the past, consumers had a TV device (typically the set-top box), a movie device (typically the DVD player), and possibly a gaming device connected to the TV. But now, the game console streams movies, the set-top box records TV, and the PC does everything. The next step is connected TVs — HDTVs that incorporate a direct connection to the Internet, whether wired or wireless.
Connected TVs are a big deal to manufacturers, but Forrester Technographics® data found that consumers are struggling to understand the benefits. One of the challenges that manufacturers of these TVs face is that when viewers are in "TV mode," they seem unable to imagine doing anything with these TVs other than watching more TV. When questioned, people appear to want one thing: more video. The top responses focus on getting access to well-known sources of TV shows and movies like Netflix, Blockbuster, or regular broadcast and cable networks, both for men and women.
I'm a big fan of the digital home, even if the phrase itself has slipped from popular use lately. I cannot wait for it to happen to me -- I'll have connected displays (does the word TV even apply anymore?) throughout the house, including the ones in my pocket, in my lap, or otherwise within reach at all times. Those displays will all speak IP, the language of the Internet, and they'll all speak to each other as well, allowing me to control one display -- say, my TV -- with another one -- my Droid X, for example. There's so much product innovation yet to come in the digital home that I love my job.
I'm not the only one who sees it, of course. If you follow the excited announcements from TV makers and electronics retailers like Best Buy, the next TV we all buy will be a connected TV (defined as a TV set with its own Internet connection whether wired or wireless and some kind of software platform), a critical first step toward that future digital home nirvana.
Connected TVs are going to be a big deal; to understand why, read my latest report which includes US survey results about connected TVs along with a forecast for connected TV penetration through the middle of the decade. It just went live to Forrester clients last week. In the report, we show that thanks to the enthusiasm on the supply side, connected TVs are going to sell like proverbial hotcakes. By 2015, we forecast that more than 43 million US homes will have at least one. That's a remarkable number, especially considering that we entered 2010 with fewer than 2 million connected TV homes in the US.