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Category: Digital TV

CES 2012 is a big draw even without eye-popping gadgets

Msft-ballmer

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it's something of a rebuilding year.  There have been no jaw-droppingly new consumer technologies unveiled, or obvious must-have new devices like in years past.

But that's not stopping near-record crowds from descending on Sin City, slurping up all its beer and bandwidth, and filling convention halls up and down The Strip.

The show's organizer, the Consumer Electronic Assn., has said that close to 150,000 attendants filled the city's hotel rooms this year, coming to check out exhibits from a record 3,100 companies.

The booths at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday, the show's official opening day, ranged from tiny stalls hung with bejeweled iPhone cases to city-block size mega-booths from global electronics makers, many paying millions to erect giant walls of high-definition screens that showcase their latest TV technology.

After attendants handed out 3D glasses at the booth of South Korea's LG Corp., a movie started on a massive IMAX-size screen showing a meteor shower shooting toward the audience.  More than a few "whoas" where audible from the crowd below.

At the Samsung booth, representatives gave demonstrations of the company's new Smart TVs, showing onlookers how to change channels or search the Web with simple voice commands,  or to "click" on-screen buttons and links with a hand gesture.  A model of the company's latest ultra-high-def TV hung on another wall, with pictures of waterfalls and forests that were so clear that one visitor said, "Wow, is that in 3D?" 

It wasn't.

And more laughs were had Monday night at Microsoft Corp.'s final keynote (the software giant has said it will no longer give the show's main speech, or maintain a booth at CES.)  The company did its best to mark the semi-somber occasion by hiring American Idol host Ryan Seacrest to be the master of ceremonies. 

Seacrest and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer enjoyed some amusing back-and-forth banter, such as when Ballmer explained the new, tile-based look of Windows 8, which is called Metro and is an improvement on the company's earlier phone operating system.

"The Metro user interface -- you’ve seen it being pioneered in recent years, but now it’s all coming together."

"Why did you look at me funny when you said Metro?" Seacrest asked, feigning hurt feelings.

Ballmer laughed, and Seacrest said, "I guess I'm going to be your mascot now."

More stunts lay in store for the show, too -- on Thursday, ESPN will stage a live boxing match at the convention center that will be broadcast in 3D on the network.

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-- David Sarno

Image: Ryan Seacrest and Steve Ballmer at the Microsoft keynote at CES. Credit: David Sarno / Los Angeles Times

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

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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

CES preview: Yet another rollout for mobile digital TV

RCA 2012 MDTV MIT700

Five years ago, Samsung unveiled a digital TV broadcasting technology that was optimized for mobile devices. It's still waiting to sell its first broadcast-enabled smartphones in the United States, just as the TV industry is still waiting for the notion of mobile DTV to take off. But there are signs that the wait may be coming to an end.

On Wednesday, a coalition of TV stations and networks announced a partnership with mobile phone company MetroPCS that will enable the latter's customers in Los Angeles and 13 other markets to tune in the stations' mobile DTV signals later this year. The first compatible device will be an Android smartphone made by Samsung, which will use a telescoping antenna for better reception. In the meantime, RCA plans to show off an Android-based flat-panel TV (shown above) that can tune in the coalition stations' service (called Dyle) at next week's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The coalition's formal name is the Mobile Content Venture, and its membership includes Fox, NBC, Univision, Telemundo, ION Television and about a dozen large station ownership groups. Their members have been installing mobile DTV transmission equipment at 72 stations in 32 markets, which reach half of the U.S. population, according to Erik Moreno, a senior vice president at Fox Networks Group and the co-general manager of the coalition. "We needed to make that first move to convince someone like MetroPCS" to offer mobile DTV service to its customers, Moreno said.

That investment by the coalition's members helps overcome the chicken-and-egg problem faced by mobile DTV. But it remains an open question whether consumers will tune in. Qualcomm's high-profile effort to broadcast TV programming to specially equipped cellphones attracted few viewers, in part because it offered only a limited selection of programming. The company eventually abandoned the venture and sold the airwaves to AT&T.

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Worried about your kids' safety online? You should be

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It's not just the online predators that parents needs to worry about these days. Or cyber-bullying. Or texting too much, or, even -- gulp! -- sexting. Perhaps a more immediate worry is that kids need to know that what they put online is forever. And that's a hard lesson to instill in someone who might still needs to be reminded to brush his teeth before going to bed.

But parents were urged to take that worry and channel it into action this week at the BlogHer convention in San Diego for 3,500 members and users of the publishing platform that logs 25 million unique visits each month.

Many parents are reluctant to monitor their kids online, according to a Verizon survey of its customers. "Some of the parents said it was because they were uncomfortable and felt it was invading children's privacy, like reading a diary," said Carrie Jacobsen of Verizon, who specializes in responsible use of wireless products.

Well, parents, get over it.

"With the Internet it's easier to hide things, but you have a right as a parent to go out and find what it is," she said. The panel offered up several tips and suggestions, listed after the jump: 

Continue reading »

Is it dumb to let a 2-year-old wield a smartphone?

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This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

GenY moms are starting 'em out young: A third of their 2-year-olds are already at home with smartphones, laptops and even digital cameras.

Gen X moms -- a little older, but also tech-savvy -- are just a tad behind. Just under 30% of their offspring have used a laptop by age 2, and 18% and 20% are comfortable with a digital camera and smartphone, respectively.

These results were among the highlights of a joint study released this week by the BlogHer publishing network and Parenting magazine, and released as BlogHer holds its seventh annual conference. Of the 1,038 women polled, 90% have children under the age of 10. Questions drilled down on the use of technology in the lives of the women, and their children.

"The kids are not potty trained yet, but are using laptops, smartphones. Digital cameras as well. It's just amazing to see the rate at which kids are being exposed to those devices at an early age, and what it's doing and changing our role as parents," said Lynne Fleck-Seitz of Verizon, who moderated a panel held at the BlogHer annual conference Friday afternoon in San Diego titled, "The Tie that Binds Parent and Child."

But even if it's not a 2-year-old showing adults how to use an iPad, "our kids are plugged in at a much younger age," Catherine McManus of The Parenting Group added.

Continue reading »

Consumer Electronics Show: USC group helps shape future of entertainment

Usc Entertainment executives who can’t attend the Consumer Electronics Show can get a virtual eyeful of the technology that is shaping the industry courtesy of an innovative online project undertaken by the University of Southern California.

USC’s Entertainment Technology Center for the last three years has sent a team of multimedia reporters to Las Vegas to highlight products of interest to companies such as Disney, Sony and 20th Century Fox. The goal is to deliver in-depth, real-time product analysis to executives’ desktops before the rest of the herd gets on board.

But don’t worry, members of the public also can log in to Flickr to see a lightweight version of the industrial reportage featuring photos of products that could in the future affect their entertainment viewing habits.  They can also view more information here

The idea behind it, explained David Wertheimer, the CEO and Executive Director of USC’s Entertainment Technology Center, is “to help studios and technology companies who are interested in where entertainment is going, how it’s changing, and distill and deliver the information to executives and people at all levels of a company.”

The team of a dozen reporters attends product launches and panel discussions, and scours the show floor for products that could capture the imagination of the ETC’s corporate membership, which also includes Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, Paramount and LucasFilm. 

Company executives, Wertheimer said, may be too busy attending meetings at the show to get that information firsthand, or could still be at their desks in Los Angeles or New York.  Information delivered to executives includes product analyses, pictures and video posted to a blog, a daily email, and further information posted to Twitter and Facebook. 
 
Products most of interest to the ETC’s reporters this year include Internet and 3D TVs, “sidecar” boxes that can deliver Internet apps or Netflix and Hulu to a TV set, and the burgeoning tablet PC industry.  Wertheimer sees apps based on Google’s Android platform as particularly noteworthy, alongside gestural interfaces. 

“We’ve learned that people really value contextual information. The great thing about what we do is we don’t just report, ‘Here’s a great cool new thing.’ You can get that at other places. We supply people in the entertainment business with what products are interesting and how they can be used to shape the business.

“Over time we’ve gotten good at targeting the way we describe products and keeping it short and to the point.” 

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Photos: Taken from Entertainment Technology Center using ng Connect LTE Connected Camera.

 

 

CES: Samsung expanding 3-D & SmartTV lines; 1 Foot Connect syncs tablets and phones to TVs

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Samsung said at CES that it will increase its Internet-connected SmartTV line to 60% of its television offerings and 3-D to seven depth-adding sets, despite 3-D TV sales last year that failed to live up to industry expectations.

The company also unveiled a new feature that will come to its SmartTV line next year called 1 Foot Connect, at a Consumer Electronics Show news conference Wednesday.

The 1 Foot Connect feature will allow any Samsung wireless devices -- such as a Blu-ray player, camera, smart phone, tablet or laptop -- to automatically sync with a Samsung SmartTV or Internet router as soon as the two devices are brought within 1 foot of each other, said John Revie, Samsung's senior vice president of consumer business.

Once synced, the devices will be able to share content such as movies, photos and TV shows.

Unlike LG and other TV makers, Samsung didn't announce at CES a line of passive 3-D glasses, such as those non-battery-powered specs found commonly in theaters. Instead, Samsung will release updated active-shutter 3-D specs that weigh 1 ounce and fit over regular glasses.

Samsung also is adding its Samsung Apps, currently only available on its Internet-connected TVs, smart phones and tablets, on the majority of its Blu-ray players next year.

A new feature called Search All is a step toward Samsung competing with Google TV in content search on the TV.

Search All will allow users of Samsung's new line of SmartTVs connected to the Internet and Blu-ray players to search for content and then watch that content on their TV, whether the video is located on their Blu-ray player, on TV, on the Internet or on devices connected locally such as a smart phone or tablet.

Samsung's top-of-the-line 3-D models will feature a new bezel just 0.2-inch thick -- about the width of a pencil. The sets will feature SmartTV features and 3-D.

The company was the U.S. leader in 3-D TV sales, having sold about 70% of 3-D TVs in the U.S. last year, said Tim Baxter, Samsung's consumer business division president.

About 1 million 3-D TVs sold worldwide last year -- a figure Samsung expects to grow globally to 6 million by the end of 2011, he said.

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CES: LG touts a tablet, glasses-free 3-D TVs and mobile screens, and cheaper 3-D glasses

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Image: Samsung D8000 TV, with 0.2-inch-thick bezel. Credit: Samsung

CES: LG touts a tablet, glasses-free 3-D TVs and mobile screens, and cheaper 3-D glasses

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LG touted a tablet computer, a glasses-free 3-D mobile DTV set and a 4.3-inch glasses-free 3-D display for mobile devices at CES on Wednesday.

Skott Ahn, LG's chief technology officer, flashed the small mobile DTV with a glasses-free 3-D screen before a crowd for less than a second during a news conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

LG officials didn't offer even a glimpse of its tablet computer, but told a packed room of reporters and bloggers that they would unveil it Thursday.

After the news conference, LG executives took photos with the glasses-free 3-D mobile DTV device in hand.

The mobile DTV set, Ahn said, was an example of the glasses-free 3-D technology LG has developed, adding that the company plans to release a glasses-free 3-D TV for the home in the future.

Ahn and other LG officials declined to say when the glasses-free sets -- portable or for the home -- would make it to store shelves.

LG is the second consumer electronics company to unveil a mobile DTV set that receives channels using a digital TV standard overseen by the Open Mobile Video Coalition. RCA announced a line of its own mobile DTV sets at a CES event Tuesday.

The glasses-free move from LG comes after Nintendo announced its glasses-free 3-D handheld video game system, the 3DS, which it promises to show off at CES on Thursday.

LG seems to be taking a few notes from the video game company. During the same news conference, LG showed off its Magic Motion Remote for its SmartTV internet-connected software that uses motion controls that are very similar to Nintendo's Wii controllers.

LG also said that this year it would ship a line of 3-D TVs that will use passive 3-D glasses technology often found in movie theatres.

Passive 3-D glasses don't require batteries like the current offerings of home 3-D TV glasses and don't use an active-shutter system to generate 3-D images a consumer can see. The passive 3-D TV glasses, which LG is calling Cinema 3D, will be cheaper than current offerings and LG will pack four pairs of the new glasses with the Cinema 3D sets.

Many TV makers are expected to introduce their own versions of passive 3-D TVs and glasses in an effort to make 3-D more afforable for consumers and spark sales. Last year, 3-D TVs didn't sell nearly as well as manufacturers had hoped and passive 3-D TV is seen as a second chance to sell 3-D in the home.

Tim Alessi, LG's director of new product development, said the new glasses would be lighter and more comfortable than the current glasses and they would be affordable enough that a consumer could buy enough pairs for the entire family and friends.

"We're meeting consumer need by eliminating some of the pain points" for 3-D, Alessi said. "It will be just like going to the movies."

LG didn't show its glasses-free 3-D screen for mobile devices Wednesday, but said it would be unveiled Thursday.

The company said it would feature a touch screen with a 480x800 pixel resolution.

"LG sees tremendous growth potential in the 3-D mobile display market," Jong-seok Park, LG's president and chief executive of mobile communications, said in a statement. "With our key understanding of displays, entertainment and mobile technology, LG is looking forward to debuting this exciting new way to watch 3-D movies or play games on your mobile phone."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Image: A press hand-out image of LG's glasses-free 3-D mobile DTV set. Credit: LG

CES: LG SmartTV Upgrader aims at AppleTV and GoogleTV; Magic Motion Remote works like Wii controller

SmartTV_TV

LG unveiled its SmartTV Upgrader set-top box for HD TVs at CES on Wednesday morning -- taking aim at both the Apple TV and Google TV.

LGSmartTVUpgradr The SmartTV Upgrader, which is a little bit larger than a hockey puck, connects to any TV with an HDMI connection and uses a Wi-Fi connection to allow users to download and use LG's Internet-connected apps on their TVs through the box, said Tim Alessi, LG's director of new product development, at a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"We're going to be second to none with the amount of content that we provide to our consumers," Alessi said.

Skott Ahn, LG's chief technology officer, said the company wanted to offer the SmartTV Upgrader for those looking to get Internet apps on their TVs without having to buy a new TV.

"Although we'd love for everyone to buy one of our new Smart TVs, we know that may not be possible," Ahn said.

Ahn, Alessi and other LG officials did not offer a release date or price for the SmartTV Upgrader but did say the device would arrive this year.

Internet-connected TVs and set-top boxes are seeing a boost in popularity this year at CES, from just about every manufacturer, and the SmartTV Upgrader will run the same software and apps as LG's line of 2011 Internet-connected sets, which offer a new user interface and a new LG App Store unavailable on LG's 2010 line of NetCast-connected sets.

Like Google TV, the SmartTV Upgrader will feature a Web browser for viewing websites and checking e-mail from a TV, and the ability to search for content found in different apps. Unlike GoogleTV, the SmartTV Upgrader, however, won't be able to search a user's cable boxes or home network for TV shows and movies.

Among the apps LG said would be offered: TV and movie streaming services such as Netflix, Vudu, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video on Demand and Best Buy's CinemaNow. Photo sharing can be done through a Picasa app, and YouTube, Twitter and Google Maps will have apps on the SmartTV Upgrader as well.

The SmartTV platform will be controlled using LG's Magic Motion Remote, a slim black clicker that features only six buttons and uses motion-sensing to direct a cursor around the screen, much like the user interface of the Nintendo Wii video-game console.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Images, from top: the LG SmartTV software dashboard, which will be found on LG SmartTV sets. The LG SmartTV Upgrader. Credit: LG

CES: RCA to launch portable TVs that pick up standard and mobile DTV channels

RCA_DMT270R

RCA said at Tuesday's CES Unveiled event in Las Vegas that it would launch a line of portable TVs that could pick up both standard over-the-air and mobile digital signals.

RCA_DMT335R Mobile DTV was a major theme of last year's CES, but few manufactures ended up releasing mobile DTV products. Spokesman Chris S. Lee said the RCA devices would ship to Radio Shack in the first quarter, then to other retailers.

RCA's portable viewers -- a line of three TVs along with a mobile DTV receiver to be used in automobiles -- make use of the mobile DTV standard overseen by the Open Mobile Video Coalition, as well as standard broadcast channels, the company said in a statement.

RCA_DMT336R The portable TVs, which will be offered in 3.5-inch and 7-inch screen sizes, will be battery operated.

Mobile DTV so far has failed to gain much traction, though RCA seems to believe there is a market for such products.

In October, a rival digital TV standard known as Flo TV was canceled by San Diego's Qualcomm Inc., known for its processors for the telecommunications industry.

Flo TV was a subscription-based mobile TV service that used broadcast signals to bring cable and network content to its mobile devices. Qualcomm also halted production of its 3.5-inch-screen Flo TV that sold for $249. The device was on the market for about a year. Flo TV programming is set to end sometime this spring.

RCA said each of its three mobile DTV sets features a signal strength indicator, closed captioning, "easel-back" stand and English or Spanish display options. The product line includes:

RCA_DMT3BR 3.5-inch Hybrid Portable Television -- Model DMT335R (suggested retail price $109) features a LED-backlit LCD screen and runs on AA batteries.
3.5-inch Hybrid Portable Television -- Model DMT336R (suggested retail price $149), has a widescreen LED-backlit LCD display, FM radio reception and an internal battery.
7-inch Hybrid Portable Television -- Model DMT270R (suggested retail price $169), features an 800x480 "high resolution" widescreen LCD display, an internal battery and a 360-degree adjustable antenna.
Pocket Mobile DTV Car Tuner Receiver -- Model DMT3BR (suggested retail price $119) is "smaller than a deck of cards," powered by a car charger, uses a monopole antenna and comes with a remote control.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photos from top: RCA Model DMT270R 7-inch mobile DTV set, RCA Model DMT335R 3.5-inch mobile DTV set, RCA Model DMT336R 3.5-inch mobile DTV set; RCA Model DMT3BR car reciver. Credit: RCA

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