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Cable Technology Feature Article

March 04, 2014

China's UCWeb Expands Browser to Smart TVs

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

China-based UCWeb has launched a browser for smart TVs, sensing the zeitgeist of personalization as connected TV usage ramps up. This marks a new move for the company, which has until now been strictly a mobile specialist.

The aptly named UC Browser for TV, which is Chinese-only at launch, includes a range of features like the ability to tap over-the-top (OTT) sources like Youku, the enablement of TV-based online shopping and a range of developer-contributed plugins that integrate the smartphone with the smart TV browser.

It will face existing competition: Opera’s opera TV browser has found traction globally via a range of service provider arrangements and deals with TiVo (News - Alert), while proprietary browsers from TV manufacturers themselves—notably Samsung and LG—ship pre-installed in many cases. Also, in China specifically, Internet giants like Baidu and Alibaba (the Google (News - Alert) and Amazon of the region, respectively) have unveiled their own plans for creating a smart TV operating system and hardware.

But UCWeb’s UC WebApp Center was one of the first for mobile Web apps in China, and is now one of the world’s largest with 500 million users globally. It has 47 million monthly active users, more than 1,500 apps in 20 categories, and 180 million downloads to its name so far. The company controls more than 50 percent of China's mobile browser market and more than 30 percent of India’s.

UCWeb plans to make the launch a springboard for a multiscreen strategy. He Xiaopeng, UCWeb co-founder and president of the company, said that it will soon offer cross-tablet, and PC-compatible browsers as well. A cloud-based approach will allow users to log in from a variety of platforms to sync their preferences and content across mobile devices, PCs and TV.

With an SDK provided by UC Web, developers can create programs that can be called on in UC Browser’s usage scenarios. Users can browse for plugins available on the plugin panel, add plugins to get personalized Internet browsing experiences like sharing to Weibo, Webpage translation, augmented reality, voice control, video on demand (VOD) and photo integration.

MarketsandMarkets expects the total smart TV market to reach $265 billion by 2016, at a CAGR of 17 percent. Strategy Analytics (News - Alert) said that the global smart TV installed base exceeded 150 million units by the end of 2013, representing 12 percent of the total number of flat-panel TVs in use. This base of sets will swell to more than 730 million units by 2017 as smart TV becomes an increasingly standard feature within TV displays.

Over the same period, Strategy Analytics expects the global household ownership of smart TVs to grow from just 7 percent of homes in 2013 to 29 percent by 2017. China is the world's largest single smart TV market.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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