In his look back on the week, Siliconrepublic.com editor John Kennedy discovered at the Consumer Electronics Show that a major revamp of the TV is under way. Welcome to the era of the smart TV.
The TV as we know it – yes, that big, bulky thing in the living room that used to gather families – is undergoing a massive reinvention and in the coming years will once again serve as the home’s primary source of entertainment and information.
Only this time it will be the conduit through which we will receive not only television but also make high-definition Skype calls with loved ones around the world, engage in social networking and download movies as quickly as they are released in the cinema.
At last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I expected all the hype to be around tablet computers and mobile phones.
These were present in abundance but what really was apparent was 3D television. Not only 3D but also the concept of internet TV.
Panasonic’s smart TV
Panasonic, for example, demonstrated a tablet computer running Android that allowed the user to surf the web for video content and with a swish of a finger transfer the video wirelessly from the tablet right onto a HD TV screen.
At the show, Samsung revealed its next generation of smart TV products that have reduced the bezel surrounding flat-screen TVs by an inch, effectively making 42-inch TVs 43-inch TVs and so on.
John Revie, vice-president of Samsung’s consumer business division explained that so far 3D TV is outpacing the introduction of Blu-ray and HD TV devices. He said that Samsung predicts 9m HDTV units to ship this year and that 60pc of the TVs it will bring to market this year will be internet-connected and 3D capable.
“Cloud content and services are going to provide truly connected services and our view is that with the press of one button on their smart TV controllers, consumers will be able to pull the content they want from anywhere on the cloud. And what we’ve done with our mobile phones and computers is ensure that they can then share that content with any other Samsung screen.”
Samsung America president Tim Baxter said that in the coming year, Samsung will partner with major content providers and software companies to enable cloud content and video on demand. “We are going to partner with the cable industry for the ultimate multi-screen experience. We will deploy the infrastructure for the smart TV by providing tools for cross platform app development.”
Google’s smart TV
Keen to be part of the internet TV revolution, Google has formed an alliance with Logitech and Sony to bring out products that can convert your existing HD television into a smart TV.
Revue is the result of Logitech’s collaboration with Google to create a smart TV platform that allows users to search for content both on TV and on the web.
At CES, Logitech demonstrated a number of new accessories that will turn the TV in the living room into an entire communications hub for the home.
“The idea behind Google TV is just search and play,” explained Logitech’s Shubada Hebbar.
“You can search both the live TV content and websites even during recording content.”
Hebbar said that most websites work on the platform but the company has been working with businesses and publishers to optimise their websites for a better user experience.
On the Horizon
In Ireland, UPC’s parent company Liberty Global will be later in the year unveiling its Horizon internet TV gateway. At CES, Intel’s Steve Betz explained that the Horizon boxes will be installed with a CE4200 Atom processor that will enable internet surfing, content on demand and potentially video calling via your TV.
At CES, the CEO of Hulu.com Jason Kilar revealed how the company’s new Hulu-plus service will deliver Hulu content to any Android handset or tablet computer.
“If you ask me what the future of TV is, I’ll tell you I’m 100pc confident that in a few years from now, eight-year-old kids will look at our current electronic programme guides (EPGs) and laugh and say ‘that was what TV was like in 2011.’”
“If you think about the traditional telephone and the smartphones we all have today, I believe that TV will see as dramatic a reinvention as the telephone. In 2011, we just watch TV that was prescribed, but TV is changing fast and people will choose to watch what’s relevant to them. TV’s reinvention has already begun.”
More from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas: