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Why Smart TV Shipments Are Growing

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Smart TVs, or those that connect users directly to streaming services, such as Netflix (NFLX - Get Report) or allow them to check the weather without the need for a set-top box or dongle, are growing in popularity. Yet, they still represent less than 10% of "installed" TVs, according to Internet analyst Mary Meeker.

Smart TV shipments represented approximately 39% of TV units shipped globally in 2013, up from roughly 25% in 2012, according to material presented by Meeker, an analyst at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). Meeker had given an in-depth presentation at the Re/Code conference on Wednesday.

Meeker's annual "Internet Trends" report is required reading for tech investors as the data-filled slides are packed with a gamut of trends in the mobile, video, analytics, social networking, application, advertising and hardware markets.  Her 164-slide presentation, which viewers can also peruse at their leisure, has been the talk of the tech world on Wednesday.

While smart TVs have really yet to take off with consumers, on the other hand, "tens of millions" of users - and growing -- are using streaming devices, such as Apple (AAPL) TV, Google (GOOG) Chromecast, Roku or the new Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) Fire TV. Apps are replacing traditional channels from networks like ESPN, BBC and Time Warner's (TWX) HBO.

The Apple TV set-top box, which sells for $99, is no longer a "hobby" for CEO Tim Cook, who noted to analysts and investors in last month's shareholder meeting call that revenue from its streaming device was more than $1 billion in 2013. Apple has sold roughly 20 million of the set-top box since it launched, Cook said.

The company has been adding channels to Apple TV including the World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) WWE Network and a Beatles channel, among others.

Last month, Amazon launched Fire TV, its own version of a streaming media device. Amazon is selling the device for $99. Google has said that it has sold "millions" of Google Chromecast, its $35 dongle that allows users to stream content via their smartphone and tablets on their HD TV.

Roku sells both a set-top box, starting at $49.99 up to $99.99, depending on the version, and recently launched a dongle to compete with Chromecast, that sells for $49.99.

In January, Roku also launched its Roku TV, which will be available this fall in sizes 32-55 inches. Roku has sold approximately 8 million units in the U.S., according to a spokeswoman.

Apple has hinted in the past at possibly building actual TV sets. CEO Cook told NBC in late 2012, "When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years," Cook said in an interview with Brian Williams. "It's an area of intense interest. I can't say more than that."

--Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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