Samsung continued its Samsung Apps branding campaign with the launch of its $500,000 "Free the TV Challenge" contest this week. The contest is aimed at incenting developers to create killer apps available on connected Samsung Blu-ray players and TVs. As I wrote recently, Samsung has begun promoting its apps with the tagline "Now there's a TV for that," a spin on Apple's, "There's an app for that." To learn more about the contest and Samsung's larger goals, I interviewed Samsung's director of content, Olivier Manuel on Wednesday. An edited transcript follows.
VideoNuze: Why create this contest, and why now?
Olivier Manuel: The reason we're running the contest now is to celebrate the fact that we're opening up our SDK, which means for the first time developers across the U.S. can download it and develop an app for Samsung connected devices. We're excited to see what kinds of new creative ideas we're going to receive from developers.
VN: The contest is called "Free the TV Challenge." Free it from what?
OM: When I started working on this in 2006-07 what I saw was that we had all this great web content available, and it was eventually going to move to the TV. So we're going from a 1,000-channel environment to a million-channel environment, where the vast majority is delivered by the web. The contest is about freeing the TV, and opening it up to all these new experiences.
VN: What are Samsung's larger goal here?
OM: In the mobile space there's been lots of excitement over the last few years, but now we're seeing the evolution of "smart TVs." They reach out to the Internet, they have apps, they can run games, educational programs, and all kinds of new experiences. We're very excited about these opportunities.
VN: How important is video in the app building contest?
OM: Video is critical, but apps aren't only about video. There are social aspects, or new experiences that don't require video. For example, games like Texas hold 'em poker has been extremely popular, as has the Facebook app.
VN: I can't help but think about the era of "interactive TV" which never really took off. How do you contrast "ITV" with what's happening now with TV apps?
OM: I did a lot of work in early '07 to understand what users really wanted. People want to relax while watching TV. The PC is about lean forward. And there are lots of great apps that work in lean back mode and still allow people to interact, especially as a group. We learned a lot about past efforts and are applying those lessons to what we're doing now.
VN: How you see the landscape for connected devices unfolding, and what do you think of how crowded it already appears to be?
OM: In 2010 Samsung believes there will be 6 million smart TVs, growing to 20 million by the end of 2012. The market is huge, $150 billion or more. We believe Samsung already has a 60% share of the connected TVs sold, a category which we helped to create. So we think we're well positioned for what's to come.
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