Manufacturers and major retailers are excited about the market outlook for connected TVs, but there’s still a wide gap to bridge when it comes to arousing consumer interest, according to Forrester Research’s James L. McQuivey. In their research report, “How to Make Connected TVs the Future of TV,”  Forrester’s team  makes the case that connected TVs — if that is  even a suitably accurate term at this stage — are a “big deal” and “are going to sell like proverbial hotcakes.”

Connected TVs generally consist of television sets that can interface to the Internet, either directly or through a home network, and may also offer a variety of TV apps. Forrester forecasts that at least 1/3 of US homes — more than 43 million — will have at least one by 2015.  That compares to the approximately 2 million that held a place in US homes as we began 2010.

There’s a “terrible truth” lurking behind this optimism however, McQuivey suggests.  The first generation of connected TVs currently on the market, and possibly subsequent generations or individual examples thereof, lack and may continue to lack the full-featured functionality and cross-screen, cross-platform ease-of-use that’s needed to generate sufficient consumer buzz and satisfaction, and might even turn consumers off to the whole idea.

At present, more than 1/3 of people that buy them wind up ignoring the connected features altogether, McQuivey points out.  At least another 14% never even connect them to the Internet, he writes.  The main culprits: TV manufacturers aren’t packing enough in the way of performance and features into the sets, and therefore justifying being able to ask a retail price high enough to more than merely keep TV set prices from falling.

TV product strategists’ inability to create a sufficiently a compelling “Internet-enhanced TV experience” and inability to convince consumers of the value of “the connection” threatens to hold back the connected TV wave, McQuivey opines.

At this point, Netflix users are among the few, if not the only group, that really has cause to appreciably vale the new TVs connected nature, though McQuivey notes that GoogleTV is due out in a few weeks or months, and that will provide a useful baseline reference for the added value that a fully-integrated digital network connected TV may provide.

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