Panasonic tempts devs with Viera Connect portal

With 3D TV not having taken the world by storm, manufacturers are looking to 'smart' TVs to drive sales and innovation. To help push its own platform, Panasonic has announced the Viera Connect Developers' site.

There's no denying that the explosion in app sales has made some serious money, and it's become ingrained in the mainstream consciousness to the point where Apple famously used 'there's an app for that' as its primary advertising campaign for the iPhone.

TV makers have watched the sales of smartphones skyrocket, and decided they want a piece of the action. Smart TVs - capable of connecting to the Internet and running code - are nothing new, but there's a renewed focus in the industry on getting as many developers looking at the platform as possible.

There's a catch, however: fragmentation. While the smartphone market is dominated by three major players - Google's Android, Apple's iOS, and Microsoft's Windows Phone - every major TV manufacturer has their own platform. As a result, there's a lot of confusion preventing the building of an effective development 'ecosystem'.

While Panasonic's latest programme, the Viera Connect Developers portal, doesn't address the fragmentation issue, the company is clearly hoping that its friendly approach will help tempt developers into adding their apps to the Viera Connect platform rather than those of its rivals.

While the apps developed for Viera Connect are streamed to the TV, rather than downloaded onto internal storage, the company has some big aims: accessories such as gamepads, keyboards and even body-mass scales and treadmills are planned for developers to take advantage of in their applications.

The apps themselves can take advantage of some major processing power, too. The company has promised 3D graphics with full HD rendering, a responsive graphical user interface, and a compact code footprint to make Viera Connect apps easier to maintain and debug.

The company risks alienating developers with an annual fee, however. Like Apple, it charges for access to the developer programme: $129 gets 'basic' access, while $599 affords a 'premium' account with additional e-mail support and fast-track replies during the QA process.

The programme also suffers from geographic restrictions. While developers are able to deploy their apps to anywhere that has a live Viera Connect service, the marketplace is only geared up to charge for apps in the US. For international developers, that leaves them up to $599 out of pocket with no way to recoup their costs.

Despite its drawbacks, Viera Connect is a promising programme, and stands out as the most tempting way to get into developing for the future of smart TVs. Whether Panasonic's prediction of a market as robust as those for smartphones will come true, however, remains to be seen.

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