Samsung’s BK Yoon: smart TV revolution to dominate to 2020

7 Jan 2011

LAS VEGAS – The man in the driving seat of Samsung’s consumer electronics strategy BK Yoon says that in the decade ahead the TV will return as the central device in our homes; a hub for lives that will be characterised by what he terms digital humanism.

Yoon comes across as a driven, energetic and sincere kind of a man who can be credited with not only ensuring that Samsung is now in control of 70pc of the fast-growing 3D TV market globally, but has the final say on many decisions that will define the internet TV age. More than 1 million 3DTVs have been sold in the US, outperforming even the original performances of LED and HD TV products. This is in addition to more than 10 million Galaxy smartphones and 1.5 million Galaxy Tab computers.

The look, the appearance and shape of Samsung smart TVs are all decided by Yoon and he is central to strategic alliances revealed by Samsung yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show, including major deals with Adobe to put Flash on smart TVs, Hulu and Dreamworks to drive the content forward and cable giants like Time Warner and Comcast to create apps for Galaxy Tab devices that manage the living room digital experience.

Earlier this week, the president of Samsung Electronics America Tim Baxter revealed that in terms of internet apps for the TV, there have been 1.5 million downloads of 300 apps specifically for Samsung’s smart TV portfolio.

The TV reinvented

Yoon describes the TV as the primary delivery platform for content in the home in the years ahead and not quite the current fragmented model where dad’s watching sports in the living room while junior rocks to the Black Eyed Peas via YouTube in the bedroom. Instead the TV, he said, will become the delivery hub for much of this entertainment and then users can access on any device throughout the home, whether tablets, smartphones or even on a LED display on the kitchen fridge.

“Digital humanism will characterise the new decade that has begun,” Yoon said, as he described the role that digital devices played in the Chilean mining disaster in helping combat the miners’ loneliness and keep them entertained and in touch with the outside world. “Digital technology will fall in line with human desires.

“There are four principles of digital humanism that guide Samsung in the creation of the next generation of consumer electronics. These are the four A’s – to access, to align, to amaze and to act.

“The key is finding a way to share content together, not in separate silos as we see today. In the decade ahead, the TV will become the dominant place of technology in human life. And I am confident that Samsung’s smart TV platform will be dominant.”

You can’t doubt Samsung’s intent. In less than half a decade the Korean manufacturer has stuck rigidly to a vision of uniting its computing, smartphone and home entertainment strategies. The company earlier this year revealed the electronics industries’ first TV apps store.

“Our vision is that content should be accessible on any connected device. Our TVs can connect with our tablet computers or our smartphones. Consumers can connect and share on any of our devices which provide an intuitive and simplified consumer experiences.”

The cloud and your content

Earlier this week, 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 9 million 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 multiscreen experience. We will deploy the infrastructure for the smart TV by providing tools for cross platform app development.”

At the Consumer Electronics Show, keynote Comcast CEO Brian Roberts demonstrated how with a Samsung Galaxy Tab device customers of Comcast’s Xfinity digital TV service can access more than 150,000 items of content from premium sources like HBO and play the content anywhere in the home.

Time Warner Cable president Glenn Britt demonstrated how any device in the home can now be able to access any time content from stations like CNN and ESPN using smart TVs as the central home entertainment hub.

At CES, the CEO of 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.”

Flash is coming to a TV near you

At CES, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen announced a strategic alliance with Samsung to put Adobe 10.1 and AIR on this year’s generation of TVs. “The full power of the web will come to TV through apps and beyond that to screens throughout the home.”

Narayen said he has invited the 3 million Flash developers to start using AIR to deliver next-generation apps. “Our vision is that consumers can access millions of devices with rich video and fundamentally it is vital bring web-based content to the TV screen.

Yoon pipped in: “A new era is beginning now. Until recently, the TV was a bulky box in the living room that people seemed to be distancing themselves from. Now the TV will become one with the devices and screens around it.”

He explained that ease of connecting devices with the smart TV is central to Samsung’s One Design strategy which creates a uniform appearance across the company’s mobile phones, tablet computers, notebook PCs and high-definition televisions.

“In my book, the smart TV will be above all a TV. It will not be a smart TV because it can access the internet but because it smoothly lets users enjoy the content they want in full HD 3D if they wish.” A key facet of this will be the arrival of HD Skype on smart TV products in the year ahead.

“We are working hard to secure high quality 3D content from our consumers,” Yoon said, introducing Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Katzenberg said Dreamworks and Samsung have been collaborating closely, with animators developing and creating via Samsung HD TVs and most recently with the world’s first 3D audio technology, Samsung 3D Sound.

In conclusion, Yoon said environmental standards of protecting, conserving and renewing are critical to the future of his vision of digital humanism and the company has been listed by Dow Jones as the No 1 electronics manufacturer for environmental standards.

“By 2020, Samsung will have invested US$23bn in reducing its carbon footprint. Putting human life is at the centre of what we do – we are creating products that make way for an era of human digitalism.”

smart TV

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years