SmartBro Surf TV is Smart’s attempt to create a market from those who cannot still afford to buy a brand new PC.
Very few Filipino households have a PC at home. The numbers could be in the range of 1.5 – 2 million households so there’s a huge opportunity to sell more.
The box contains an embedded processor that connects to a SmartBro Plug-it via USB and broadcasts the video to a monitor or a TV. As such, it has a number of limitations:
- No internal storage. Saving files may be made via an external storage like a Flash drive or an external HDD.
- The built-in browser is Opera but there are no installed plugins so Flash is not supported.
- Supported display resolution is low and probably just 800×600 pixels.
- The over-all system performance seems a bit slow.
Smart is offering the Surf TV for about Php4,500 which includes the box, keyboard, mouse, remote and the SmartBro Plug-it. If you break it down per item, the box alone might cost about Php3,500 (since the 3G dongle is around Php1k).
On the other hand, Surf TV offers some benefits:
- Portability. It’s small and lightweight and does not take a lot of space compared to a full-blown desktop PC.
- Low power consumption. Haven’t really figured out how much electricity the box consumes but my guess is that it’s close or even lower than the usual netbook which is 30 to 40 watts per hour (power consumption of a dekstop PC could be around 250 to 500 watts per hour).
- No additional acquisition costs like software licenses, etc.
The biggest debate here would be the cost-effectiveness of SmartBro Surf TV vs. a second-hand desktop PC at the Php3,500 price point. Indeed, the proliferation of old but dirt-cheap PCs from Japan and Korea has helped a lot of families own their first PC at home.
Smart Surf TV is, simply put, an internet appliance. Its sole purpose is for the user to be able to casually log on to the internet using an existing analog TV as a monitor and that’s it — plug it then surf and chat.
As such, this device is not for you if you have previously owned a computer or laptop — you will obviously look for the flexibility and choice.
In fact, I would go as far as saying “if you are reading this review, this device is probably not for you”. Unless you’re reading this from an internet cafe so that probably means you still don’t have a PC+internet set-up at home.
So, for which market segment is the Surf TV for?
My guess is that Smart is trying to penetrate that segment of the market that has never had the capacity to acquire a full desktop PC at home. That could be somewhere in the lower C, D or maybe even E market.
But then again, Surf TV is by no means a replacement to the PC. It’s a viable alternative, yes, but still a bit in the early development stage. I am told that they are doing a software update for this to optimize the software and hardware combo. There’s still a market for it though — those who are looking at affordable plug-and-play connectivity solutions (most of us, including myself, just can’t appreciate it because we’re not the target market).
The logic behind this move is pretty obvious — higher PC density, bigger demand for connectivity.
Disclosure: Smart/PLDT is an advertiser on this blog.