The week in gadgets: PayPal for smart TVs and Microsoft’s shrinking Surface

15 Apr 2013

The current, full-size Microsoft Surface

A look at gadget happenings, as Microsoft tries to keep up by sizing down in the tablet market, Sony continues its efforts to build a 4K ecosystem, Panasonic has a new digital camera to show off, and LG introduces PayPal to its smart TV range.

Microsoft planning 7-inch Surface?

According to The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is reacting to the success of Google’s Nexus 7 and Apple’s iPad mini with plans to make a 7-inch tablet of its own. Considering IDC’s figures say that half of the tablets shipped in Q4 2012 were smaller than 8 inches and PC sales are falling off a cliff, it’s logical that the software-maker-turned-manufacturer would now move in this direction, though it already has a lot on its plate for 2013. New software will be unveiled at Build this June and a new set-top box-like Xbox is expected on 21 May, while it’s also rumoured that Microsoft is working on its own smartphone and perhaps even a smartwatch.

Sony’s 4K rollout continues

Sony announced last week that its new range of 4K ultra-high-definition television sets unveiled at CES at the start of this year will be available online and in stores in the US from 21 April. Priced at US$4,999 and US$6,999 respectively, the 55-inch XBR-55X900A and 65-inch XBR-65X900A feature image resolution four times that of a full-HD TV at 3,840 x 2,160. Both smart TVs also feature Sony’s new Triluminous Display, a two-chip 4K X-Reality Pro picture engine, and 65W front-facing magnetic fluid speaker system.

Along with this announcement came word of a 4K media player, the FMP-X1, coming this summer. The player will be bundled with 10 feature films and video shorts in 4K resolution for US$699, with a 4K distribution service to follow in autumn.

Those who have Sony’s first-generation 4K video server (which came with Sony’s first and largest 4K UHDTV, the 84-inch XBR-84X900) can exchange it for a FMP-X1 when the distribution service launches.

Panasonic introduces Lumix GF6

Panasonic’s latest addition to the Lumix G family is the DMC-GF6, an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera with a 16MP Live MOS sensor and newly developed Venus Engine.

The Lumix GF6 features more creative filters than its predecessors and has a dedicated video record button for full-HD video shooting (1,920 x 1,080) with stereo sound. It’s Wi-Fi-enabled but also comes with an NFC chip for quick connectivity for image sharing and remote shooting.

Full-area Touch AF is enabled via the 3-inch display, which can tilt 180 degrees for self portraits. A newly added function lever can be adapted by the user for zoom or aperture control.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6

For novice photographers, a Scene Guide displays images shot by professionals so they can easily choose which mode best fits their situation. This guide also contains tips on shooting, technical advice and recommended lenses.

Creative types will enjoy the addition of a stop-motion animation function, while Instagramming foodies will be happy to see ‘Food Recognition’ mode added to Scene Control.

LG TVs get PayPal

This week, LG’s smart TVs became the first to feature PayPal integration, heralding a new revenue stream for the smart TV ecosystem.

The online payments service is accessed via the remote for what LG calls ‘frictionless purchasing’. “PayPal has been redefining both online and offline commerce, and television represents a dynamic channel for reaching consumers when they’re receptive to making a purchase or donating to a cause,” said Randall Davies, senior director of global business development at PayPal. “We see smart TV as a high-potential platform for commerce in the coming years, and we’re thrilled to be at the forefront with LG in integrating the ease, security and functionality of PayPal directly into LG smart TVs.”

PayPal is available now on the 2013 range of LG smart TVs in the US, Canada and the UK, and will reach France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Australia this month, with other markets to follow.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.