Smart TV growth will soar this year and next and “the latest technology shift to smart mobile terminals will sooner or later extend into this new market segment,” according to Taiwan’s Topology Research Institute (TRI), which details.

By “smart mobile terminals” TRI is referring to the growing use of Internet-enabled mobile devices – smartphones and tablet PCs – and their integration with smart TVs as remote control capabilities vastly greater than that of the TV remote controls they are replacing.

Global sales of smart TVs exceeded 7 million in 2010, a figure that TRI expects will grow more than 3.5x and total 25.18 million this year, accounting for nearly 10.4% of overall TV shipments worldwide. The growth surge will continue through 2012, when smart TV sales will double to total some 52.85 million units and account for 20% of global TV shipments, TRI forecasts.

The smart TV market is setting up to be “the final battlefield in which user interface, gaming function (sic.), Internet browsing, OTT (Over-the-Top) video, social networking and search tools will be the deciding factors in market success,” according to TRI research manager C.W. Chang.

Social networking functionality is expected to be the smart TV market’s “killer app,” he continued. TV viewers are already embracing the use of social networking while watching television, he said, noting that 4,064 Tweets were generated each second during the 2011 Super Bowl, while ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox all launched various types of programming on social network platforms.

That’s pushing the smart TV into a new phase of development, according to Chang, ‘transforming it from a device providing OTT/VoD (Video-on-Demand), video streaming, reality shows, Flash video, TV apps and 3D programs to a social network-oriented device that can integrate more users, movies and social networking tools, as well as various types of devices and application software.”

This development, dubbed “social TV,” combines smart TVs, tablets and smartphones, along with direct-broadcast audio-video content and social network software to create “a social-centric ecology” that product and service providers will need to offer if they are to attract and retain younger consumers and capitalize on the explosive growth of the smart TV market.

TRI sees smart TV market players dividing into three camps. Samsung is expected to form one all its own given its smart TVs currently offer around 1,000 applications and access to more than 10 million downloads.

A second, made up of firms such as Sony and Vizio together with leading Chinese TV vendors including Hisen, TCL and Konka is forming around Google’s Android mobile operating system.

The third is expected to include LG, Sharp and Philips, whose smart TVs are also based on HTML 5, CE-HTML and Hbb digital TV programming languages.

TV set manufacturers’ success in the fast-growing and evolving smart TV market will depend not only on their ability to manufacture good quality TV sets at attractive price points, but their ability to tap into and integrate resources, content and services across industries and in different fields.

The combination of “hardware + software/interface + content/service” and “smartphone + tablet + smart TV” are “evolving into the most important business model in the “Smart Everything” era, according to TRI.

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