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CES 2012: No-show Apple looms large at Las Vegas show

January 9, 2012 |  4:12 pm

Lg-tv

At the Consumer Electronics Show, models carried around wireless flat-screen TVs playing vivid nature films, executives waved next generation “magic” remote controls and audiences were treated to demonstrations of massive, wall-size TVs.
 
Also, Apple’s stock hit a record high.
 
Though the Cupertino, Calif., iPhone giant doesn’t attend the show, rumors are spreading that it has its own TV in the works, and analysts say established TV companies like Samsung Electronics, LG  and Sony are struggling to make their TVs more user-friendly and better able to find music, movies and online video from across the Internet.
 
“The TV hasn’t gone quite through the big revolutionary change that we’ve seen on those other screens,” said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee. “These other players are trying to jockey for position ahead of Apple.”
 
But with industry observers expecting an “iTV” from Apple that will turn the industry on its head, not all observers were impressed with the latest TV improvements.
 
“They’re just throwing spaghetti up against the wall right now,” said Peter Misek, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. “I think Apple’s going to force a big change in the industry  -- and it’s hard for the companies to respond when they don’t know what iTV looks like yet.”
 
At the CES on Monday, LG showed off its “Magic Remote,” a device with few buttons that resembles a Nintendo Wii controller –- enabling the viewer to point at and select different images and buttons on the screen.

Sharp’s Aquos Freestyle flat-screens get their signal wirelessly, and as the models demonstrated by parading them down the showroom runway, they are light enough to be carried around the home, whether to the balcony, the kitchen or the powder room.
 
Samsung showed off a new line of smarter televisions with a suite of games and Web applications built in.  The company, a major rival of Apple's in both the smartphone and tablet sectors, did hint at a gesture and voice control system for its upcoming TVs, but did not show those features in action. 
 
Vizio Inc. unveiled three new high-definition sets that feature Google TV, the search-giant’s TV navigation software that will also run on TVs from Samsung Electronics and LG, and which comes with dozens of built-in apps that users can use on-screen to fetch sports scores, watch movies and play games.
 
Meanwhile, Google has had trouble getting its Google TV software to take off.  Launched on a small number of devices last year, the product was coolly received by reviewers and failed to gain wide traction with consumers.

Logitech Inc., which made one of the original Google TV set-top boxes, discontinued the device in November, calling it a “big mistake.” 

Still, Google has recruited a new cast of the biggest TV makers -- Samsung, LG and Vizio -- to test the waters with a suite of Google–powered TV sets.

“The manufacturers have no choice but to turn to Google because there’s no one else,” Misek said.  But until Google can make its phones, tablets, and personal computers all talk to each other, the way Apple’s do,  Google and its TV partners “won’t be able to catch up.”

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-- David Sarno in Las Vegas

Photo: LG Electronics televisions on display at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images

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