At the weekend a friend visited me. We have not seen since each other since a long time. As we studied both computer science, parts of our discussion where off course technology related. Parts of the discussion where about current TV’s and game consoles (he participated in the design of the PS3 CPU, so he is well aware about the technical limitations of the hardware the current game consoles use).
During our discussion we talked about the software limitations of such hardware.
Current TV’s come for example with some predefined internet channels, but not with a real web browser. We think that people which keep a TV for 10 years or longer (like for example our parents and probably both of us too) this will result in a loss of features after some years, because those channels will get less attention of case to exist at all. There is also no way to switch to alternatives then, except by buying a new TV (we expect that there will be no firmware update in such a case). With a real web browser this would not be an issue (it may be more easy to enter URL’s with a real keyboard than with a remote control, but let us do small steps here). Game consoles are a bit better in this regard, but there we have the problem that some websites are too much memory hungry (they do not include the user agent of the game console browsers in the same class as smart phones or tablet PCs… from the size aspect they are not, but from the memory and computing power aspect they are more similar).
I would expect that the TV stations do not want to have TVs with really good browsers, because then you may not need a TV station anymore. But this is what users would use if it would be there.
Another deficit is that there is not a mail program in game consoles and TV’s. For writing mails you need a real keyboard, but for a quick check if there is mail (e.g. X unread mails, or maybe even displaying the subject line of the emails) or maybe to just read without answering a solution without a keyboard connected would already be enough.
I expect that console manufacturers do not want to spend money for something people are not willing to give much money for, respectively for something where they can not make money with (an email service from the console company would be another mail service additional to the one for the PC and maybe additional to the one of the smart phone… people do not need 10 email accounts, one is enough).
Another overlooked feature is some kind of VoIP+Video feature (at least for the game consoles which have optionally a camera, but IMO this is also possible for the next generation of TV’s with build-in webcams). At least the offerings from Sony and Microsoft are powerful enough to come with some kind of video conferencing software. It does not matter much if this is Skype or the Google version of this, or some other widespread one (MS surely wants to use their own stuff), it just has to be one which is in widespread use to be adopted by the people.This does not need to be in HD, even a small video would already be much more than what is available ATM.
Basically I gave the answer to my question (the title of this posting) myself (except for the video conferencing stuff)… but on the other hand this would be something which could set a product apart from others. For the PS3 this may be now one of the things which could show up in the Homebrew scene, now that the security of the PS3 is compromised. For the Wii at least the email part could be easily done. The rest… would have to catch up in case something like this shows up for the PS3 and is used extensively.