I meet this news with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I can’t help feeling that it may have slightly missed the boat, on the other, in reality I think the transition in viewing behaviour and TV usage that this box supports is going to take a long time to mature so maybe it’s not too late. My conclusion – its cost will make it a slow starter, and if it comes down in cost it’s success will depend on its usability/user experience. You might say given my area of expertise I would say that, but here is my reasoning…
Whilst you could see Smart TVs as a rival, I’m not sure that’s fair. I believe YouView is targeted at the same sort of audience as Freeview boxes were – i.e. those who don’t want to get a new TV to get new features (in this case on-demand TV apps) and potentially those who aren’t particularly tech-savvy. So does it successfully target that market?
Imagine you shelled out on a new HD TV a few years back and have no intention of replacing it but really fancy being able to watch BBC iPlayer and similar without looking at your teeny mobile screen or your computer. What should you buy?
YouView supporters would no doubt say – YouView - but there are various other options including:
*Not all the same apps as YouView but growing all the time
** Price estimates taken from Amazon
So clearly price is an issue, and some of these other options even offer more at a lower price. However, beyond this, the one thing the table above does not communicate is relative user experience or usability. None of the platforms above are specifically designed for joint PVR and on-demand TV apps, and getting and using this functionality on these devices is not a seamless user experience. If YouView have managed to create a UI that really does make this easy for the non-techy and it gets a reputation for good usability, then it really could be a success. That is a big 'if' and the lack of WiFi in itself I think suggests there could be user experience problems for non-techy users.
I look forward to getting my hands on a YouView box and posting my thoughts on its usability once I have. Watch this space…