The past few days we’ve seen lots of news regarding the current trends in SmartTV platforms. CES coverage is bringing in a lot of new tendencies and I’d like to talk a bit about the current convergence I see happening in the market.
It all starts with LG webOS
LG rocked the world when it shipped webOS on SmartTVs. With the objective of making TVs simple again without reducing features or restricting potential. The LG webOS SmartTVs are a joy to use both as an end user and as a developer.
webOS has a rich history and legacy. It influenced the current mobile operating systems much more than people usually give credit for. This legacy of shaping the industry can be felt again in the SmartTV ecosystem. webOS pioneered the idea that mobile apps could be built using web technologies and while SmartTVs are a bit less mobile than smartphones they still share the foundation technologies with its older siblings from HP webOS and Palm webOS.
Apps for webOS TVs are built using the webOS SDK and web applications are a first class citizen in the system. The apps are built with good old Apache Cordova. The most impressive part of the SDK is the EnyoJS Framework which is able to build cross-platform apps that goes from Smartphones to SmartTVs with ease. The moonstone UI library for Enyo was created specifically for SmartTVs and the spotlight library allows easy navigation and input using different types of TV remote. It becomes much easier to deploy apps on TVs once you have a ready to use UI and input library.
LG with the killer combo of webOS + Enyo based apps raised the bar for the competing platforms. Finally building applications for a SmartTV was as easy as developing web pages.
Then it becomes open with Firefox OS
The new mobile operating system by Mozilla brought a refreshing openness and power to the mobile operating system ecosystem. Smartphones with Firefox OS have been released in 29 countries are able to run in devices with specs as low as 128 MB of RAM. The new system is the only mobile operating system in the world that is developed in the open. And before you start shouting Android remember that even though most of the Android versions had their source released at some point in time, some did not. Also Android is not developed in the open, you can’t go to a roadmap or issue tracker and start contributing to the next release (or help shape it by adding new features).
Firefox OS is developed in plain sight. Anyone can fetch the source tree and help make the system what they want it to be. All the roadmap and all the source for all the system, built-in apps and backend services are published. Contribution is encouraged and lots of partners already jumped in. The promise of an open operating system with no strings attached and full source code is very appealing to hardware developers.