If the market for smart TV operating systems was a classroom, it would be full of brainiacs who all believe they know the answer to the future of over-the-top video.
Among that smart TV OS class is Roku, which powers a line of streaming players and has been integrated into several smart TVs, including models from Philips, RCA, TCL, Element Electronics, Hitachi America, Sharp, Insignia (Best Buy’s in-house brand) and Hisense.
Also raising its hand is Android TV, which just landed a deal to power a new line of TVs from both Haier and Westinghouse, expanding on earlier integration deals with Sony and Sharp. Amazon, meanwhile, is trying to broaden the reach of its Fire TV platform through tie-ins with TVs made by Element Electronics (another under the Westinghouse brand) and Seiki.
Add to that mix the in-house smart TV operating systems from Samsung Electronics (Tizen) and LG Electronics (webOS), and it would appear that there’s not a lot of room for another major player.
But Vewd (formerly known as Opera TV) believes that there’s room for at least one more, as it looks to elbow its way in with a new smart TV OS of its own.
Vewd thinks its OS, introduced at CES in Las Vegas, will help to expand the choices that TV makers have now — build a world-class solution in-house, or be shoehorned into a one-size-fits all offering.
It developed the new platform based on feedback it was getting from existing customers as well as prospective ones, according to Aneesh Rajaram, Vewd’s CEO.
“We listened carefully to these customers of ours and understood that there was a clear need in the industry to come up with a unique solution … that shares with the OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] all of the value creation of an OS,” he said.
Vewd already ships software on millions of devices, and already works with several TV makers, including Philips/TP Vision, Vizio, Hisense, TCL (mostly outside the U.S.) and Skyworth, among others.
Though it’s fair to characterize Vewd OS as a potential competitor to platforms like Roku and Android TV, Rajaram said the new system is modular enough to also be complementary.
Vewd OS “can be both a complete turnkey solution with a full user experience … or it can be delivered as a modular solution,” he said. For example, the TV maker has the option to strip out the user interface tied to Vewd OS and build their own using the company’s toolkit while still taking advantage of a cloud infrastructure that is powering Vewd’s new system.
Rajaram points out that Vewd’s legacy platform for apps is already working in Android TV devices, and could do the same for Roku.
As a point of differentiation, Vewd’s approach with the new OS is to sidestep an applications model that requires consumers, content partners and TV makers themselves keep track of new versions and upgrades. Instead, Vewd OS will lean on a cloud-based platform to ensure that the apps are up to snuff.
Vewd has also designed its OS to focus on video rather than a menu of individual apps. By way of example, when the home screen is launched, the viewer is taken straight into a cinematic auto-play of a movie trailer or another type of video content that partners select to promote on the platform.
“We’re leading with video, whereas every other OS … leads with apps,” Rajaram said.
Vewd said its OS will also lead with customization, allowing the OEMs to take complete control of branding, while also getting access to data to help them monetize their platforms.
Vewd hasn’t announced any takers for its new OS, but the company believes there’s ample opportunity to gain share as some of its customers look to grow their shipments and add a more modern OS to the mix.
Joining a Crowded Market
Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst at nScreenMedia, doesn’t share the same level of enthusiasm that there’s room left for another major entrant for a market that is still trying to achieve scale with its mix of existing players.
“This is such a crowded space,” Dixon said. “It’s a very challenging environment.”
One possible “in” he sees for Vewd is in Europe, thanks to its implementation of privacy controls with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) support, which the European Commission views as a way to strengthen and unify data protection of individual consumers within the European Union.
Support for GDPR “would be a big deal in Europe,” he added, but added that it’s likely a bigger deal for the services that run on the OS, rather than the OS itself.